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?"

Search This Blog

Friday, January 20, 2012

Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Café Pajaro Blend

I'm going to admit that I'm really not all that knowledgeable when it comes to coffee. I'm just not. I sorta know what a café au lait is because that has been one of Sandy's usual pickups out at the coffee shops. But a caffè americano? A latte? Espresso versus cappuccino? Can't help you there. Heck, I get confused about what Starbucks names their sizes. I'd be the world's worst barista, easily. For a good space of time, I was thrilled with whatever gas station brew as long as there was a good selection of the little colored International Creamers available.* So, yeah, I know I'm not exactly a threat to take over the title of Mr. Coffee, but I know what like. I like coffee that's dark, strong, and vibrant, that'll smack me awake as I settle in with a fresh French press-full for a long day's work at my corporately bland, super-bleachy lighted, muted cubicle (as you can see from the picture - hey, look, my reflection!). In other words, completely the opposite from the free work stuff that tastes like brown water that somehow spoiled. With the right stuff in my cup, there's a fighting chance that I won't commit a felony or curse out some ridiculous insurance company have to deal with (believe me, I've come close).

As a coffee novice, I generally like Trader Joe's selection. Two big winners for me are the New Orleans Style with Chicory and the Italian Roast, but even the cheapie Cup of Joe stuff does alright in a pinch. This past time around, it was time for something new, so let's get on with the Trader Joe's Café Pajaro.

In case you don't know Spanish or couldn't pick it up from the packaging context of the big ol' Toucan Joe, pajaro simply means "bird." So we're talking about bird coffee. I guess that's supposed to make consumers feel like it's a tropical treat. Eh, maybe. The coffee bean mix comes from farms in Nicaragua, Peru and southern Mexico, so it's at least a little exotic-y. The beans are definitely dark roasted but not scorched (like way too much other stuff out there). When brewed, the output is definitely dark, dark coffee that smells rather inviting. For me, a little half and half is all I need to get it right. Too much added sugar will cover up way too much of the natural flavor that's subtly sweet with some chocolate tones. The good thing is, unlike some coffee/cocoa crap I got at TJ's around the holidays, the chocolate taste is there but it doesn't muddy up the overall flavor. It's not quite as bold as I'd like (especially when compared to the TJ's chicory coffee) but it's certainly not weak or watery tasting at all. It won't be the best-tasting coffee you'll ever have , but the Café Pajaro makes for a good cup better than any at-work option, and for $7.49 a canister, a decent value. Definite bonus points for being organic and fair trade.

For the most part, Sandy's been off coffee for the past couple months. The few times she's snuck a sip here and there, she's grimaced and said "blecch" and not much else. Oh, good ol' pregnancy-induced taste aversions that ruin things you once held dear (like one time when we went out for Mexican food). If the baby doesn't like coffee, what can you do? Anyways that means I'm handling the judging of this by myself, like an adult. Hrmmm. It's decent enough but I like the aforementioned ones better, so let's be fair about it and say....

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Café Pajaro: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
*I once made the mistake of telling that to a talented barista buddy of mine. He immediately cringed and turned away. We've never talked about coffee since.


  1. I have had the "Italian Roast" and I say that in quotes cuz somehow I don't really think its Italian... I will say their Kona coffee ain't from Kona.. It was the worst tasting, tho I did see an old lady go gaga over it saying "wow, Kona Coffee!!" I guess some folks will believe anything.. True Kona does not come cheap and definitely has a rich, deep flavor which TJ's doesn't have... Haven't seen the new flavor you mentioned but will check it out.

  2. This may improve your coffee IQ

  3. I've been looking for a new coffee to try, what an appropriate post for me to find. I will need to explore Trader Joe's options, I too, am somewhat of a novice. I really appreciate the post!

  4. It's great to get a coffee review from them. We're currently working our way through a canister of Breakfast Blend, and it's really good and smooth. I might try something else next time now though :)

  5. My go-to blend for quite some time has been TJ's Ultra Dark Dark Sumatra. Some of the other blends I've tried have tasted watered down. Here in the Chicago suburbs, it's $5.99 for a canister (12 oz., I think?). It used to be an even better deal -- $4.99!

  6. Just tried the Trader Joe's 100% Kona coffee whole bean given to me as a gift. Opened the can and noticed it doesn't SMELL right (although can says it won't expire until 5/2014). Ground the beans and brewed it up and noticed it doesn't TASTE right, either. Wierd stuff, and I'd have to say it's NOT what I've experienced when drinking other Kona coffees.

  7. Oh, I SO disagree with you on this one. I am having a Cafe Pajaro latte as I type this, and as a latte or a straight cup of coffee, Cafe Pajaro is rich, dark and bold - just like it claims on its label. It is hands down, one of my favorites at TJ's. (Kona is too pricy for my wallet.)

    1. Agree 100%. Cafe Pajaro has become my go-to coffee for a few months now. I also really like the Bay Blend. Haven't tried TJ's NO Style, tried to like the Peaberry but couldn't, liked the Free Trade Sumatra but not the regular. As someone who likes good coffee flavor, I gotta give Pajaro a solid 8-8.5. But I'm not the Grand Poobah of this blog. ;)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. It is called Fair Trade. Oh and direct trade is better for farmers, by the way

  8. Another suggestion to try and review, along with Cafe Pajaro (and I give this coffee at least 9 stars! Maybe Nathan likes it better? ;) ) It's not a TJ brand, but Kerrygold butter (unsalted) is incredible. SOOOOO sweet that you want to eat it straight. (Really!) The reason I suggest it here is because my new coffee addiction is a mug of Cafe Pajaro with a big chunk of Kerrygold butter mixed in. No cream, no sugar. And the saturated butterfat is actually healthy too! Sounds crazy, but give it a shot! And please review the Kerrygold--it's amazing!!