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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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trader Joe's Italian Roast

Y'know, Trader Joe's has had some odd names and silly packaging for some of their products before, but this one...this might be the most out there in a way. First, the name. If you weren't giving it much thought, or were completely ignorant of what section of the store you were in, and just saw a can labelled "Trader Joe's Italian Roast," well, isn't it conceivable it could cross your mind that this is a big o' can of tasty tender savory meat? Okay, probably not, but it's coffee, why not put it in the name? It'd be kinda like naming something "Honey Nuts" without an "O" in the title to tip you off it's cereal. Then there's the design on the canister. My picture cannot fully encompass the absurdity of it, but take a gander at it next time you're at TJ's. From left to right, you got Edward and Bella of "Twilight" fame pictures. Bella, of course, has kinda spacey, lost-in-the-sparkly-dreaminess-of-Edward gaze upon her face. Meanwhile, Edward has an arm growing out of the back of his head that's pouring a lady with a honky-tonk badonkadonk in a red dress a cup of coffee, while simultaneously apparently thrusting his spittle on a disproportionately huge steaming mug, served by a dude with a funny shaped head, skeevy 'stache, gigantor arms, and strong-as-all-heck fingertips. If that's not enough, there's the Tower of Pisa, the Red Baron flying by, and some chick who kinda looks like Mona Lisa sipping a cartoon drink through a straw. If you're a fan of bad puns, in the product write-up, there's a reminder that this'll make you a cup of guiseppe because it's Italian. Get it? Har-de-har-har. That's pretty lame.

Know what isn't lame though? A good full cup of this dark roasted coffee. I usually brew my own coffee at work with a French press (much to the continual amazement of my coworkers) and recently I felt the need to switch from my usual go-to get-up-and-go. I'm glad France and Italy got over any hard feelings from the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis a few years back and managed to combine efforts to make this kind of caffeinated beverage possible. For me, a good cup of coffee is strong, vibrant, with a little character, and it sure as heck shouldn't taste burnt. That's pretty much this. There's three types of beans (Costa Rican Tarrazu, Colombian Excelso, New Guinea Koban, if you're a coffee bean buff) which have much more flavor than, say, Sanka or whatever brown mulch my work uses for coffee. Each cup I've had of this has tasted well-balanced yet bold, and rich and well-flavored enough that I can usually get away without putting any sugar in it and only a sparse amount of cream. Not that's it's sweet or anything, because it's not. It's just good, kinda earthy, kinda nutty, and has more than enough caffeine to put me in a good mood for the day without buzzing like a banshee.

I've brought this home on the weekend for Sandy and I to enjoy...well, enjoy's too strong a word for her. Tolerate? Maybe. Sandy just doesn't like her coffee tasting like, well, coffee, and has to have all sorts of flavor shots and loads of sugar a la Dunkin Donuts to really like her coffee. Eh, I enjoy that stuff, too. "It's just too dark for me," she says, "although not burn-y. That's good." She's going through more of a green tea/steamed milk/hot chocolate kick right now anyways, so that may contribute slightly to her non-enthusiasm. We had a couple over for brunch the other weekend where we served this, and it was a definitely hit for me and the other guy ("wow," he said), so apparently it's all dependent on your preference. To be honest, I don't recall the exact price of this, but I think the can runs somewhere in the $6-$7 range, which isn't bad at all. I still like the chicory-laced brew a tad better, which I gave a four, so I think I'll go 3.5 here. Not a bad change-up, and it'll definitely make my work-coffee rotation. Sandy? For the aforementioned reasons, she's slapping it with a 2.5.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Balanced, dark, and not burn-y?

    Sounds just about perfect to me!

  2. I've tried various coffees from TJ's.. The so called Hawaiian is a far cry from the true Kona from Hi.... I have a hard time w/their coffees.. True Kona is not the price TJ is pushing... and it shows in the lack of flavor and richness... Sorry, 6 out of 10 spoon award is not very good in my book...despite the low price.

  3. I thought it did taste burnt, and they happily exchanged it for me. For the record I did purchase the decaf version, and getting a good decaf is such a challenge. I had learned if you do not like something, they will exchange it. I felt uneasy about it at first, but everything I try I love so much I took them up on it this time and they were too kind to help me find a replacement.