Review: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Oct 10

When I spotted Pumpkin Spice coffee at Trader Joe’s, I knew I had to give it a try. The ingredients included orange peel, and orange is a big favorite of mine, so I had high hopes.

Now, a warning about flavored coffee beans: adding flavor to ground beans is often a way to try to mask substandard coffee. And coffee that’s sold pre-ground, as this is, may not be at the peak of its freshness. I don’t grind my beans fresh at home like I should, but at least I have an idea how long ago they were ground. When you buy a canister of ground beans, all bets are off.

Ponder the alluring packaging.

Ponder the alluring packaging.

When I opened the canister, the smell was quite striking. Unfortunately, I don’t mean that in a good way. I expected to smell pumpkin pie spices, or possibly orange peel. What I actually smelled was … honestly, I don’t know. It seemed almost chemical. It certainly didn’t smell like any ingredient I would expect in pumpkin spice coffee.

I brewed this coffee the same way I brew my regular morning coffee — as a cold brew. It’s too fine a grind for a French press filter, so I had to strain the grounds out manually, but that’s no big deal. I tried brewing it with and without the brown sugar included in my usual cold brew, so I’d have a good basis for comparison.

This coffee is definitely flavored. But the flavor doesn’t seem like any other pumpkin spice product I’ve tried. If you’re brewing this hoping to get something similar to a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, you will be disappointed. I couldn’t really identify any of the traditional spices, nor anything in the ingredients list. It just has a vague “some kind of spices” flavor.

As for the coffee beans themselves, I’m not impressed. But then, I have never been a fan of Trader Joe’s coffee. It may be a quality thing or it may be a personal preference. I have tried some coffees of theirs that were pretty decent (the Breakfast Blend comes to mind). But compared to the cold-brewed Verona I have every morning, this stuff was just not as good. A little bitter, a little burnt — and yes, I know that’s an odd thing to say in comparison to a Starbucks dark roast! — and just underwhelming.

If you like Trader Joe’s coffee, you may enjoy this more than I did. But don’t expect it to have a classic pumpkin spice flavor.

 

  • What: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee
  • Where: Trader Joe’s grocery stores
  • Verdict: Underwhelming coffee, with a not-very-pumpkin-spice-like flavor. But it may be a decent brew for fans of other coffees from Trader Joe’s.

 

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Review: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Chai mix

Nov 09

This may seem shocking, given the amount of coffee I drink, but I’m one of those rare people who likes drinking coffee¬†and tea. And given my love of the Pumpkin Spice Latte*, it’s only natural that I was dying to try out Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice chai mix as soon as I saw it.

Trader Joe's chai mix

Basically it’s a canister of powder, made with mostly normal sounding ingredients (with only a few polysyllabic chemically things, and tame ones at that). It’s got sugar, nonfat milk, tea, spices, coconut oil and a few random gibs and gobs for flavor and shelf stability. You mix it with hot water and bam, instant chai**!

There’s times in my life when I want a sugary, caffeinated drink with a minimum of effort. This mix is almost perfectly suited for those times. The flavor is good, if a little sweet for my liking. The spices are spiceful.

If you’re not big on tea, don’t worry — you won’t really taste the black tea in this. American chai tea lattes tend heavily toward spice and sugar rather than tea flavor and this is no exception. 23 grams of sugar per serving, according to the nutrition facts. If you’re looking for something less froufrousugardrink and more tea-like, you should probably leave this on the shelf and look for unsweetened Chai you can brew from loose tea.

The powder has some nonfat milk in it, so mixing it with water still gives you a somewhat milky drink. There was some graininess as I got to the bottom of the cup, but that might be from the spices (which generally don’t dissolve).

Verdict: If you like sugary Chai (like Starbucks’s Chai tea lattes) and want to make your own easily, give this a try! It’s delicious. Two mugs up.
*Which is not so much flavored like pumpkin, but like the spices you put in a pumpkin pie. More of a pumpkin pie spice latte. But that’s too many words.
**Yes, I know proper chai is not instant. I like my chai like I like my gratification.

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