Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trader Joe's Organic Tea & Lemonade

So, I didn't grow up in Pittsburgh but have lived in the city for just over eight years now, and in the meanwhile have learned all sorts of terms and phrases known as "Pittsburghese" spoken by native "yinzers." Thankfully, I don't drop them too often except the occasional "let's redd up" (because it sounds such much more fun than "cleaning") and refuse to acknowledge many of them on principle. One phrase I have picked up a few years back was "Arnold Palmer." Palmer, of course, is the legendary golfer from Latrobe (or as the locals say, "Lay-trobe") and through some means or another, his name has become synonymous with a mix of basically equal parts of lemonade and ice tea. Did Palmer invent this concept? I don't know. I mean, he does have a golf event named after him which he founded, so conceivably, Arnold Palmer could be playing in the Arnold Palmer while drinking an Arnold Palmer. That's pretty cool if you ask me. Anyways, I thought it was just a neat little local reference until I saw it popping up more and more, to the point where Arnold Palmer has an officially licensed Arnold Palmer with Arizona Brewing. Naturally, some variations have come along the way such as the John Daly (add vodka) and the Tiger Woods (add Ambien, Viagra, and bad judgment).

Of course, probably because of copyright issues, Trader Joe's can't come right out and label their blend as an Arnold Palmer. It's not the first time such laws got in the way of a perfectly good name. It doesn't mean TJ's can't make a wink and a nod to colloquial origin of the popular name on the packaging with a golfing gentleman depicted on the front, and a duo on the back along with some old school golfing terms like "mashie" (a five iron) and "albatross" (three under par on a given hole). Plus there's this out-of-place reminder on the side to replace one's divot.

Well, copyright issues be danged, I'm calling it an Arnold Palmer, because it tastes like a pretty darn good one. The taste starts off with a good tart lemonade flavor that refreshingly and fairly smoothly transitions to an ice tea finish. In between both lemon and tea are about equally present. It's slightly heavy on the lemonade for me but not offensively so. I prefer about 2:3 ratio of lemonade to ice tea while mixing my own, and this drink hit the middle of the fairway fairly exactly like a good tee shot (i.e., like none of mine ever do). It's pretty light and crisp tasting and wouldn't be out of place out on the links. Be warned though, it is kinda sugary so expect it to be very easy to drink a lot of it trying to quench your thirst especially on a hot day. I also appreciate the fact that it is organic so it is real cane sugar and not junk like high fructose corn syrup giving its flavor. Overall, this is definitely better than par (can't say sub-par, because even though that's good in golf, it's a negative statement. Hmm).

It's not to say it's my favorite. When picking an ice tea to purchase, I tend to side more with the offerings from the regional dairy. I appreciate it now, but it took me a while out here to get used to Turner's, and hands-down my favorite ice tea is still Rosenberger's. Store and national brands like Lipton just don't hold the same appeal to me. And as I mentioned a minute ago, I like being able to mix my own blends and Arnold Palmers to get them "just right" for me.

Still, the Trader Joe's Arnold Palmer is one of the best store brand pre-made ones I've tasted. Sandy agrees. She's not all that into ice tea other than the sporadic batches of homebrewed she makes or the occasional carton of Turner's, preferring green teas and the like instead, but said she liked this overall and found it very drinkable for her, giving it a four. My line of thinking is, a four is a pretty good score to settle for on most golf holes (except a par-3, of course, but someone would take a four on a par-5 any time), and by in large there's nothing to be ashamed of for that. Four it is from me as well.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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