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Question for Chowhound - Coffeehounds...Trader Joe's Coffees,if any, which?

For the last several years I've been buying my coffee from a vendor/roaster who sells out of the Fairway store in Plainview (Long Island, NY). His coffee is excellent at a great prices. However, we moved to another part of the NY Metro over a year ago and now it's an hour drive to get there so am seeking other options.

I've been considering trying coffee that's sold in TJ. Can anyone recommend a particular coffee there? We prefer rich, deep, intense and full flavored with not too much acidity. I'd also like one that's "fair trade" if possible and, if it's not too much to ask, a decaf suggestion as well - same or complementary flavor components as I mix to create a half caf/half decaf blend.

Thank you.

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  1. I really like the Sumatra, it's fair trade, full caf. It's not as good as something you'd get from a local roaster who roasts their own beans, but it's much better than most store-bought stuff. I don't particularly like the one with the macaw on the label (I think it's 'Cafe Pajaro'), but the Bolivian one, with the blue label, is good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Will second you on the macaw-labeled coffee leaving something to be desired. It's on the acidic side a bit too much for my tastes.

      1. re: Buckethead

        Agree on the Sumatra full caf. I usually buy at CoffeeAM.com now, but when I forget to place my order, I'll pick up a canister of the Sumatra to tide me over.

      2. Laylag, try the New Mexico Pinon coffee at Trader's. They roast in small batches which really makes a difference in the final product. It's a medium roast, which I used to pass up for the darker roasts, but I've since switched over. Lately, the darker roasts have tasted burnt to me, totally lacking in actual coffee flavor, but this medium New Mexico coffee if fabulous. I use more coffee to water than is usually called for, the result being a brew that is strong, dark, and flavorful without tasting burnt.

        2 Replies
        1. re: SDgirl

          that's the one in the red foil pkg, right?
          love that stuff - full, mellow and almost chocolatey

          1. re: pitu

            That's the one. It's got an amazing aroma, kind of like hazelnuts, and you're right about the chocolatey flavor. Love it.

        2. "We prefer rich, deep, intense and full flavored with not too much acidity. I'd also like one that's "fair trade" if possible and, if it's not too much to ask, a decaf suggestion as well - same or complementary flavor components as I mix to create a half caf/half decaf blend."

          The Double Dark with Mexican & Costa Rican beans fits your palette's requirements but isn't fair trade. I does come in Decaf as well... otherwise the Really Smooth & Mellow Blend is a nice decaf (as he goes to make another batch).

          1. Just went to TJ for the first time last week, got a kick out of it. Currently drinking the Ethiopean medium dark roast, shade grown, fair trade. Pretty good. Shade grown protects the wild life so it is an important consumer awareness issue.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dijon

              Love the Ethiopian coffee! I think the other one I like was the Guatelmalan.

            2. I do not know why it is, but coffee is the one commodity I've tried from TJ that has never been satisfactory. It's never rich enough, strong enough, aromatic enough - it's like I'd gotten some more Maxwell House "French Roast", a promise of hearty flavor followed by an insipid reality.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Will Owen

                sir owen, I'm with you in my skepticism, though occasionally the stuff they give out in store samples is drinkable. There are a lot of things that need to be done right for that deep rich effect in the mouth and one variable that TJ likely abuses is the time lag between roasting and preparing the drink; another is the initial quality of the unroasted beans, I can't imagine their criteria is as strict taste-wise as the specialty coffee importers/roasters', whereas TJ must put a high priority on cost efficiency. enjoy your '07

                1. re: moto

                  The coffees at TJ have never been one of their strong points. I'll stick by my Costco Kirkland brand coffee beans (roasted by Starbucks, and also Fair Trade). At about $9 for two pounds, it's a great deal.

                  1. re: dpan

                    I'll second the Costco green bag ala Starbucks for the depth of flavor and price point.

                2. re: Will Owen

                  Will, all, I would say and this is my second or third day on the Ethiopean from TJs, it hasn't quite lived up to my expectations or even what I am used to from the grocery store, Beres Brothers Fair trades.

                  I

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    I wholeheartedly agree. I used to drink TJ's coffees about 5 yrs. ago and I'm not sure if my tastebuds have changed or if their coffee has changed, but they don't taste good anymore. I bought a can recently because it was convenient, but it was so bad (flat, insipid, weirdly acidic) that I had to return it. My in-laws buy the Costco coffee which I think tastes better. The best coffee comes from a local roaster IMO. Ask on your local board for a place closer to your new home.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Agreed. Especially when there are so many great small roasters out there who ship right to your door, it no longer matters where you live . . .

                    2. Coffee preferences, like all other things gustatory, is a matter of individual taste. I've been buying TJ's whole bean Dark Sumatra for a while now, and it suits me very well, although prior to finding it I had never been a fan of dark roasts.

                      1. I adore the "Bay Blend", it's dark and rich and delicious - caf and decaf!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hon

                          Hon - thanks for the recommendation on the Bay Blend. I tried my first cup of it (with caf) this morning, and was pleased with the flavor and lower acidity. Muchos gracias!!!

                          1. re: hon

                            Another vote for Bay Blend. The nearest TJ's is about an hour from our house, so when Husband goes he'll buy 5 or 6 of the big cans of the Bay Blend. The cashiers must think he's nuts.

                          2. A year ago, the company I work for did a consulting gig with Peet's and as a result I ended up with several samples of coffee roasted that day (btw... they roast to order and treat their own shops as just another customer) and I also learned the proper way to prepare coffee. At their headquarters they are fanatical about using French Presses (although they call them something different).

                            A couple days later I held a blind tasting with some fellow food snobs... including Peet's, Starbucks, and TJs coffees sitting in my cupboard. Let's just say TJ's faired fairly well in the blind taste tests.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              I used to swear by Peets "Major Dickason's Blend", well lemme tell ya, TJ's Bay Blend beats it and for way less cost.

                            2. I agree with others that I don't care for TJs coffee... though I was turned off at least 10 years ago and there's a chance the quality has improved.

                              Another bad thing is that you can't get a small sample there, so if you buy one of the big cans of beans and don't like the blend, you're stuck with it. I prefer to stick to places where I can buy any amount of beans that I like....

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: allegro805

                                If you try anything at TJ's and don't like it you can (and should) take it back for a full refund.

                                1. re: MobyRichard

                                  Hm. It's good to know that's their policy... but that's so not my style.

                              2. I regularly use the Moka Java blend from Trader Joe's -- it's full flavored and not acidic. When they have it, their Kona is okay as well.

                                1. Funny you should post such a topic - I just received a can of TJ's "Espresso di Roma" whole bean coffee in a christmas basket and started using it this week. I am a huge coffee snob and never thought it could be as good as Peet's or Starbuck's. It is actually BETTER than my favorite starbuck's espresso roast. It has a perfect balance and has more of a nutty (vs. "earthy") flavor. I cannot believe how good it is and will definitely be buying more.

                                  1. I like the Kauai which is a medium roast, kind of chocolaty, and not too acidic. My husband loves the Italian roast which I don't care for.
                                    Also keep in mind when preparing you half-caf coffee, that the darker the roast, the less caffeine it has. So, maybe you could just choose a dark roast instead of creating a blend.

                                    1. I just got a can of the Tanzanian Peaberry (which the can said is limited edition). It is really wonderful. I bought 2 cans, but wished I would have stocked up on more.

                                      It is full bodied, balanced, and not too acidic. Priced at $5.99/can, its a steal.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Booger

                                        Update they now have a can of limited edition Oaxacan Peaberry.... will try it as soon as my can of Double Dark runs out.

                                      2. Wow. Thank you all. So much to think about, such different opinions as is almost always the case here with CHers.

                                        I'm going to go to TJ tomorrow and pick something. I am not dismissing the comments by Will Owen and Moto but figure as I'm only throwing a little bit of money at this problem, I'll give TJ a try. I considered the Costco thing - was there yesterday but didn't do it.

                                        Since I've now found out I have to go to LI next week, I'll use the TJ (still haven't settled on which) until then and will then get to my roaster at Fairway in Plainview and stock up. I'll let everyone know my thoughts on whatever I pick from TJ. My fingers are crossed. Wish me luck.

                                        1. Okay, bought the limited edition Tanzanian Peaberry. Said full-bodied and was recommended by one poster. Made first pot this morning and found it disappointing. It didn't even offer that normally tantalizing smell of fresh brewing coffee and the flavor was, for me, very thin and weak. I now have a pound of it I ground at the store so don't know that they'll take that back and exchange for something else. I am going to try though.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: laylag

                                            Update: Successfully and courteously exchanged the Peaberry. Manager and cashier recommended the Italian Dark Roast so we shall see.

                                            1. re: laylag

                                              hello, of course it's best to try stuff yourself and as you note, TJ prices and guarantee makes the enterprise low risk. I've sampled, brewed,cupped,or roasted dozens if not hundreds of East African coffees incl. Tanz. peaberries (how the berry is formed and its size only indicates a genetic disposition plus sorting at the mill/processor, quality is neither implied nor excluded). If I saw any Tanzanian described as full-bodied--unless qualified w.'relative/compared to most Tanzanian' or the like-- I'd be very skeptical and assume the marketers aren't applying meaningful criteria to their terms.[Of course marketers wouldn't say 'lightweight',maybe 'delicate',and they'll overuse 'deep' and never say 'shallow'.] Sounds like yours wasn't very fresh; was there a roast or batch date?

                                              I tried the in-store sample of Sumatra,which sort of sets the bar for 'full body' if you get a decent representative batch, at a TJ today. For a Sumatra, it lacked both body and depth, overall it was drinkable for free but barely recognisable,overextracted and probably brewed with tap water which made it too sharp/acidic. good luck with your further tests.

                                              1. re: laylag

                                                i am currently brewing TJ's peaberry coffee from tanzania. my can says "bright" and "floral" and "medium" strength, which all indicate to me a coffee that's not too intense or strong.

                                                i drink straight espresso (with a touch of honey) and therefore prefer low acidify and less bitterness. this tanzanian peaberry is perfect. it tastes exactly as advertised.

                                                leylag, you asked for our recommendations, but of course everything has different tastes. rather than give a simple answer, i will say that IF you want a single source, smooth and medium blend, i highly recommend TJ's tanzanian peaberry.

                                              2. I'm a French roast drinker, and while I hate their regular French roast (insipid is right) the Ultra dark French and the other Ultra dark are both quite good.

                                                1. We've tried nearly all of the whole bean coffees (none of the decafs, though). We just got, for the first time, the Bolivian Organic. Whoa, it is good. And it smells really good. It's a medium acidity and smalls kind of chocolaty. Also, it's organic and fair trade. You can't beat that. Highly recommended.

                                                  1. The TJ Ultra-darks, and Bay Blend, while they aren't earth-shattering (to someone who lives in close proximity to lots of people who grind their own and make it right) are pretty damn good, and the price is reasonable. Thier Pinonn and "Winter Blend" (both FLAVORED, bnut not offensively so) appeal mightly to the Chow-spouse...
                                                    rfgs

                                                    1. We drink the Kenya AA and the Moka Java, plus the French Roast decaf is very good. The prices seem fair, you grind them yourself, and they make darned drinkable AeroPress coffee. I also like Melitta in a can, believe it or not, especially their Columbia. All these are reasonably priced. Beyond that, we drink Kona from Keans for special occasions and some of their very fresh, very well roasted varietals. Hope this helps.

                                                      1. I really like the French Roast Low Acid coffee. I am kind of particular about my coffee, and I haven't been able to find a cafe-roasted coffee here in Boston that I like enough to be worth $10-13/lb. In the meantime, as the search continues, I quite like the TJ's Low Acid French Roast, which comes in at $7/lb, and is thoroughly consistently wonderfully drinkable. And the low acid thing is a real big bonus. ;)

                                                        1. Litchick - if you're in Boston, try Simon's in Cambridge if you can get there. They offer a number of different coffees from Terroir (George Howell's company - formerly owned Coffee Connection) and I believe they also offer some Daterras from Ecco Coffee but I could be wrong on that last point.

                                                          I can't speak to TJs coffee. I used to drink it several years ago and found most of their varietals more properly roasted than the typical SBUX. But I now own a coffeehouse so no need to buy any coffee ;-)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                            Thanks for the recs, Panini Guy, I will def check them out. ;)

                                                          2. Trader Joe's Bay Blend is a strong, delicious cup of coffee. This will knock your socks off! On the side of coffee can description reads..."Joe's Bay Blend is a blend of Columbian Excelso and Mexican arabica coffee beans which have been roasted especially to appeal to coffee enthusiasts who like the hearty, full flavor of deeply roased coffee. If you like coffee "Seattle style" or "Bay Area style," we think you'll like Joe's Bay Blend, Trader Joe's darkest roasted coffee."

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: ilse

                                                              How does the Bay Blend compare to the Volcano?

                                                            2. This thead has popped back up, don't know if you're still looking for suggestions, but we mix the Double Dark half and half with the French Roast Decaf and we really like the results. It is not overly acidic, the several kinds of beans with different levels of roasting adds a nice complexity to the coffee and the price is very competitive wtih just about anything else around.

                                                              1. Has anyone been able to find the Kenya AA recently? It's my parents' favorite and they haven't been able to locate it in several stores in Eastern MA.

                                                                1. Why not ask your current vendor if he'll ship the coffee beans to you?

                                                                  I like the TJs Bay Blend but with all the recent price increases, I have been buying from various on-line sources.

                                                                  1. I like, kiwi Jan 15, 2007 02:29AM, am in a love affair with the Trader Joes Organic Bolivian Coffee. Recently though it's not been stocked at the local trader joe's. Has anyone else experienced the same-- and know any taste-alikes?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: auntieb

                                                                      I'm missing the Organic Bolivian @ my local TJ's in Massachusetts too!

                                                                      1. re: shaebones

                                                                        Its the first coffee I picked up the other day (in northern california) and I really enjoy it! Since you guys have lost the bolivian blend, what do you buy now?

                                                                    2. If you want a great fair trade coffee, try this

                                                                      http://www.amazon.com/Altura-Organic-...

                                                                      You get 2( 2lb) bags for about 31 bucks. My spouse just loves it.

                                                                      1. We drink both the Bay Blend and the French Roast, but what I can tell you is that when you open the can, make sure the beans a very oily. If not, return the can. The more oily the beans, the fresher the roast and the better the flavor.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: iaintchoppedliver

                                                                          Re: "The more oily the beans the fresher the roast and the better the flavor."

                                                                          Somebody sold you a bill of goods.

                                                                          Very oily beans are the primary visual indicator of very old coffee. The longer beans sit around, the more oil comes to the surface.

                                                                          Darker roasts (Viennese) will produce some oil, French Roast even more. But when freshly roasted, there won't be a "wet" look over the entire bean, only some drops and a little bit of sheen. Some old-time roasters will outright burn their beans in which case you'll have something black and oily, but pretty much all you'll taste is charcoal.

                                                                          Light-Medium roast coffee (a level where you'll find the most of a coffee bean's flavor potential) shouldn't have any visible oils at all.

                                                                          (For purposes of disclosure, I am a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and a certified judge at barista competitions, so I'm not just pulling this out of my butt for sake of being argumentative. It's fact.).

                                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                            Very glad to read re: the light-medium roast coffee level is where you find the majority of a bean's flavor - as that is the roasting level I tend to prefer. I've got friends who say nothing but French Roast, but I find the darker roasts always taste burned to me (i.e., Dunkin' Donuts or Charbucks).

                                                                        2. The TJ kauai Peaberry is awesome but my daily drink is the Decaf Organic Fair trade French roast.
                                                                          The TJ here always has two blends brewed for tasting.

                                                                          1. I really like the Trader Joe's Italian Roast. It tastes like the regular coffee they serve in Italy (not espresso).