What else is the tangerine but the perfect example of the forgotten also-ran. At some point in the unknown past man stood over the Ur-carafe, his hand wavering for a moment between two nearly identical citrus fruits, and for reasons lost to us now, it was the orange he chose to squeeze for his morning juice forever more. There is an alternate universes where all coin flips came up opposite, all substance is made from anti-matter, cash is based upon the silver standard, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit towers over Mickey Mouse and people wouldn’t dream of having breakfast without a glass of fresh-squeezed TJ.
It’s beyond me to imagine what the Trader Joe’s bigwigs were thinking when they decided to stock their shelves with a juice that 95% of the population will automatically pass up in favor of good ol’ orange juice, but whatever the reason is I decided to honor it with a purchase this week. Practically, the tangerine is almost as near to the orange as it is possible to come.
I will say, first and foremost, that I prefer the color of tangerine juice to your ordinary store boat orange juice. It’s hue is just slightly more rich, almost imperceptibly closer to red, than a glass of Florida’s best. I expected much the same from the taste. The tangerine is, after all, close cousin to the orange, there is even debate in scientific communities over whether the tangerine is it’s own species or just a variety of orange. If scientists can’t tell the difference, how different could 100% TJ be from OJ? Markedly different, is the answer.The same citrus bite is there, particularly on the top note as it graces the tongue, but the heart note and follow through are both startlingly bitter. If I had to make a tangerine juice stand-in, I would go for a 70/30 OJ, grapefruit juice split – it’s that bitter. But, if I may say so, bitter in a good way.
As is so often the case with pure juices tangerine juice is a complex and engrossing taste. It is not chiefly bitter, so much as it is interestingly bitter. Orange juice, like apple juice, can be at times too sweet. Tangerine juice is a sipping drink, and drinks that insist on being sipped are perfect for people who love juice, but fear the massive caloric load inherent in a big glass of juice. I tend to guzzle purely sweet drinks, and so I never tempt myself with large cartons of orange juice in the fridge. This drink packs just enough of a punch to make me sit up, pay attention, and set the cup back down. The perfect replacement for a breakfast juice or, in a pinch, the perfect way to mask a particularly strong mixed drink.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, particularly to iconoclasts.
Would I Buy It Again: Absolutely, seasonal if nothing else.
Final Synopsis: Orange juice’s older, more refined brother.
Carrots have always been something of a mixed bag for me. Raw, a find them delicious – be they shredded, sliced, julienned, or dropped on the table as an unvarnished, knobbly stick still covered in garden dirt. I also love them boiled, roasted, toasted or fried -just don’t steam them. If you steam them I’ll punch you in the face. Don’t steam them anywhere near me, the odor alone is uniquely repulsive. Steamed carrots are bastards and we can all hate them together.
I’ve written on unusual forms of carrots (and their unusual history) before, but as I stood in my local TJ’s, staring a stately array of gleaming orange bottles in the face, I realized I’d never had carrot juice before. Not straight carrot juice, at any rate. Of course, I’ve had it in my fruit juices, yogurts, salad dressings and, of course, smoothies before. People have been squeezing the fluid from these oddly colored roots as a natural food dye for decades. The stuff’s all but ubiquitous in adulterated forms, but as straight-from-a-bottle, only-ingredient-listed-on-the-bottle, honest-to-god, organic carrot juice? That’s something you don’t usually see. I had to imagine there were two possible reasons for that fact, either it tastes dreadful, or it tastes fine but $3.50 for 100 ml is an unseemly price for the privilege of drinking a handful of carrots. Reckless as always, I took this one home.
The taste of organic carrot juice is shockingly complex. Shockingly because, again, we’re talking about a single, pure ingredient. The juice advances through your mouth in three distinct phases, each dominated by an almost alarming sweetness. Pure organic carrot juice is like drinking a box of strawberry milk, if some joker swapped out the artificial strawberry flavoring for artificial carrot flavoring. Shocking, guys, like I said.
Let’s break this down to the blow by blow, shall we.
At the setup, you are ready for anything but sweetness. The nose detects nothing but the odor of the unleashed carrot. As you tip the drink into your mouth, a wave of intense carrot sensation runs before it. This is an amazingly brief sensation, existing in the few milliseconds before the juice itself hits the tongue, but distinctly notable nonetheless. It’s as if the liquid is so supercharged with pure carrot-ness that the air itself becomes infused with these uncontainable motes of carrot essence. Like a reverse aftertaste, in effect. At this moment you are absolutely convinced that this is going to be a healthful, if untasty, experience. However, in the very next moment the juice pulls a trick so unforeseen as to make you fear, momentarily, for your sanity. As the opaque milky juice bathes your tongue you are rooted to the spot by unrelenting sweetness. Yes, you know it’s just carrots, and yes, somewhere deep within the juice the flavor of carrot lingers, but any such vegetative taste is overwhelmed totally by the unyielding, delicious sweetness.
Once you gulp, the sweetness vanishes like a dream and leaves in it’s place a taste exactly as if you’d just gnawed upon three inches of solid carrot root. Only the absence of lingering, carroty fragments in your teeth marks any real difference.
In my experience it’s really totally unprecedented. After every sip I couldn’t help but think “Really? This is pure carrot?”
Would I Recommend It: Oh yeah, so long as you don’t mind the aftertaste of raw carrots.
Would I Buy It Again: Only if the price comes down by about 30%.
Final Synopsis: You will never look the same way at a carrot again.