I must admit, I'm not much of a cereal guy anymore. Those Saturday mornings I spent straddling the piano bench in my parents' living room, bowl after bowl of milk and sugary grains sitting in front of me, watching everything from Smurfs to Saved by the Bell well into the afternoon, are nothing but distant memories.
But every once in a while, I'll have a bowl of delicious cereal that's so good, so tasty, that it'll take me back to those days when I only took pause from shoveling a series of spoonfuls into my face to sing along to the Muppet Babies theme song...
This is not one of those cereals.
This is like a cereal from a sad parallel reality where bowls of spherical chocolate aren't sweet treats, but are, rather, disciplinary tools employed by overzealous parents. "That's it young man, it's a bowl of Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch for you, and then a time-out in your room to think about what you've done!"
It's potentially a version of Cocoa Puffs for the gluten-free, wheat-free crowd, I suppose. But even gluten status aside, there are quite a few key differences between this offering and classic Cocoa Puffs. The pieces here are slightly smaller, not quite as rigid, and in my opinion, not nearly as chocolatey.
Personally, I'll take Cocoa Pebbles over Cocoa Puffs any day of the week. I just like the texture better, and I feel like they yield a nicer flavor of milk at the end of the bowl. Also, Cocoa Pebbles are completely gluten free and always have been. I know you Cocoa Puffs fans—my wife included, cuckoos that you are, will fight me tooth and nail on that assertion, but I think, for once, we can set our differences aside and agree on one thing: this Trader Joe's cocoa cereal is vastly inferior to either Post's or General Mills' classic offerings.
The taste of rice, sorghum, and corn all challenge the slight cocoa flavor for dominance. It's barely sweet. It would have been better to simply avoid cocoa or chocolate taste altogether and market this product as a healthy, multigrain cereal. It might not have been any more exciting, but at least it wouldn't have been so disappointing.
Both Sonia and I are leaning toward returning this one and taking TJ's up on their no-questions-asked refund policy once again. We don't do it often, but if a product just doesn't work for us, we won't force ourselves to eat it...and we certainly won't just throw it out.
I can imagine somebody out there likes it—somebody who wants a grainy cereal with a very subtle chocolate taste, but two and a half stars a piece is as generous as Sonia and I will be on this one.
Bottom line: 5 out of 10.