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, February 20, 2014

Trader Joe's Coffee á Cocoa

I think this item was first brought to our attention via Instagram. Sonia pointed out the photo to me, and somehow I got the impression that it was like a mixture of hot chocolate and coffee.

It's not.

It's coffee with traces of chocolatiness. Perhaps I'd describe it as having a "chocolate finish" if I were feeling generous. Disappointing for people like me who don't really like the taste of coffee. I'm not sure what "Chocolate Fudge Oil" is, but it's not nearly as chocolatey as it sounds. I've never even heard of it before, and I lived in Chocolate Town, USA for five years. That's right, just a few blocks from Hershey Park. It smelled like chocolate there, although some say the chocolate smell is artificially produced to cover up the smell of the nearby sewage treatment plant. People used cocoa shells for mulch there. But there wasn't much talk about "Chocolate Fudge Oil." Probably because it's not that chocolatey.

Now don't get me wrong, I know Hershey's isn't the best chocolate on earth, especially by chocolate snob standards. Like coffee, I'm not really into chocolate all that much, either—Hershey's or otherwise. I'm not one of those weirdos that dislikes chocolate, either. Given the choice between coffee and chocolate, I'll take the chocolate. I always mention Hershey's because I lived there. That's my reference point. It's what I'm familiar with. If I had grown up in Bruges, I would undoubtedly have an extraordinarily sophisticated Belgian Chocolate reference point that would make me seem waaay more suave, sexy, and worldly. But hey, I'm from Pennsyltucky, yo. Go Hershey Bears!

There is talk about "mocha" on the can. But the mochas I've had are a bit heavier on the chocolate part of the mixture. Plus, you actually make this by putting ground coffee in a filter and putting it in a coffee maker. It's not a powdered mixture like hot chocolate.

But I must say, on the plus side, it does have a rich, medium-dark roast type flavor going on. Smooth and a little nutty, like it says on the can. I think if I hadn't expected something "choco-riffic," I might have been a lot more impressed. If they had pitched this as some random Brazilian Arabica coffee and not emphasized chocolate so much, I might have been thoroughly pleased. As I've written before, one of the ways I measure the success of a coffee is how little sugar and milk I need to add to make it palatable. And I added relatively little to this happy blend.

So right now, I'm going to summon my inner coffee connoisseur and give this three stars. No wait...three and a half stars. No. Wait. Three stars. And I'm going to make a confession. When Sonia isn't around, I often guess her score. I've published posts with her score as just a guess on my part, but I pass it off as her official score. BUT, the thing is, I'm almost always right. Like dead on. So I'm going to go ahead and guess her score with this product. I think she'll give it four stars. It's not rocket science. She's a predictable lass. That's LASS, with an "L." Gotta love her, though. So cute.

Aha, her text just came in. I was right. It's a four.

So. Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

13 comments:

  1. I got this before I read your post. Agree that the grounds smelled quite chocolately but I didn't taste much of it in the coffee itself. Rather disappointing. Tho it is better than most of the ground coffees I've bought at TJs.

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  2. FYI ... mocha is ACTUALLY a specific type of coffee bean from an actual place called Mocha. Think Champagne, France. .... and just like " champagne" (that now can come from anywhere in the world) people now think "mocha" means chocolate coffee (and any old coffee beans are now being used for that drink.)



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    1. Didn't know that, Rachel! Interesting info. Thanks!

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    2. I bought this on impulse...tried it in my drip coffeemaker and didn't really care for it when served as regular coffee. However, I found I really enjoyed it when used in my Starbucks iced coffee maker (essentially a pourover brewer using 8 scoops coffee to 24 oz. water). I brewed it over ice, let it chill in the fridge, and made it into iced coffee using skim milk and a bit of Splenda, and the chocolate flavor was much more pronounced than when I made it in the regular coffee maker.

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  3. I don't buy pre-ground coffee. I use Trader Joe's Dark and add a tiny bit of Bellagio's sipping chocolate to a cup. And yes, I will type the code to prove I'm not a robot EVERY time I comment here.

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  4. When I opened the can it immediately looked & smelled like Vietnemese coffee - IMO the best coffee in the world! Coffee culture is huge there, they take their coffee very seriously and people sit around for hours in cafe's.

    In Vietnam it's common to roast coffee super dark with cocoa & butter oil. In addition, they often use the stronger Robusta bean. It is then brewed strong and mixed with sweetened condensed milk - the end result tasting like a melted Haagen Dazs ice cream cone.

    Being that Trader Joe's uses a medium-dark roast here (and with no Robusta) it doesn't stand up as well with the sweetened condensed milk. You might try a Trader Joe's dark roast mixed with this at a 50/50 ratio for a good Viet cup. Below I included a recipe but you'll need a Vietnemese Phin coffee filter. These are available for $5.00 at Asian markets but I don't like the screw-down type which most of them offer. The best I found is from Trung-Nguyen.com, and while your there try their fine selection off authentic Viet coffee (their premium blend is enhanced with coca.)

    17 grams coffee (Vietnemese generally use anywhere from 4 to 10 parts water to coffee. Here I am using a 7/1 ratio.
    120 grams water
    30 grams Longevity brand sweetened condensed milk (the best and widely available in Asian markets.)

    Place the coffee in a Vietnemese Phin filter and very lightly compress the grounds. Put in a little water (around 25 grams) to "bloom" the coffee for a minute then fill it to the top (it should be around 120 grams water.)

    I found this coffee has the perfect grind for Viet coffee as it brewed in 5 minutes which is optimal. If you want to add some whole dark beans you'll want a medium-coarse grind. Also, for anyone that wants to scoff at 17 grams being too much coffee for one serving, remember that this is not all coffee - your also brewing cocoa.

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    1. Wow, thanks for sharing your coffee expertise, Shane!

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    2. Right on brother, nice blog. Also, I just realized that I provided a bad link where you can buy a Phin filter and learn how to brew Viet coffee. Here's the correct one...

      http://www.trung-nguyen-online.com/

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  5. I forgot to add that if you want the best flavor you'll want to brew this with a method that doesn't use paper (it absorbs the "Fudge Oil" - whatever that is!) Using a Vietnemese Phin filter you'll get all the chocolately goodness in the cup, a French Press would be my second choice.

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  6. I've brewed some of this for the first time today. I used eight small scoops — about 5.5 grams apiece — where I usually use nine small scoops of beans. Steeped for 180 seconds in 195°F water and then filtered. Drunk without sugar.

    I find it quite tasty — plenty of chocolate, in my view, and very satisfying.

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  7. I quite enjoy the 'chocolate' notes it adds to my coffee. I have to add a single sugar cube to help it bring out the flavor and I add a tablespoon of half & half because I don't enjoy the deeper roasts.

    Here is what "chocolate fudge oil" is: http://goo.gl/q6tmfY

    Mocha is a Turkish term for a coffee from The Yemen which had natural chocolate notes. It is only fairly recently that 'mocha' has been redefined as coffee with chocolate added to it.

    Any coffee that is brewed and has not been run through a paper filter will raise your serum cholesterol significantly. So even though I am somewhat of a coffee purist, I run my daily doses through a paper filter.

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  8. On the can it's listed as medium-dark roast. Maybe my palate has changed since drinking Peet's dark roasts regularly for a little while but this is definitely one of the lightest dark roasts I've ever had. The hint of chocolate saves a bit what would otherwise be an average coffee in my opinion.

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