I’m used to seeing coconut water peddled in large cartons, usually with some sort of semi-novel tetra-pack packaging – so coming across Trader Joe’s new 100% Pure Coconut Water in a tiny little 12 oz plastic bottle was a surprise. Even more surprising was the $2.99 price tag. Wait – seriously? Doesn’t Trader Joe’s already peddle a 750ml box of Pure Coconut Water for that exact same price? Just feet away on a nearby shelf? Do they really expect me to pay more than twice as much for the same amount of coconut water? They must think this is some seriously good stuff.
As I talk about in my earlier post on coconut water, Trader Joe’s made me a coconut water convert. Yes, I still think it tastes sort of weird and is painfully trendy – but it’s also an absolutely amazing (and natural) way to get massively hydrated. So I’m more than willing to be receptive to TJ’s new take on coconut water – but with this sort of price differential they going to have to make one hell of a case.
When you crack this bottle open and take a sip, the first thing you’ll notice is that it is actually pretty similar to Trader Joe’s other coconut water. This certainly puts it leaps and bounds ahead of many of the commercial coconut waters on the market (Zico, VitaCoco, etc, etc, etc) but doesn’t exactly make the case for that bigger price tag. Sure, there are some subtle taste differences that can be dissected – this Single Origin Coconut water seems to go down a little “smoother” and seems to taste a little fresher – but this is largely splitting hairs.
So if they taste the same, why the big price difference. That, of course, is because of the “single origin” quality, featured on the label. As TJ themselves explain on the side, each bottle is derived from a coconuts grown only in Thailand, with 1.5 coconuts going into each bottle. Hence the “single origin” label. While that may be somewhat underwhelming (defining “single origin” as originating within the same general country doesn’t particularly impress me), they also make use of a cold water method of pasteurization called HPP or high-pressure processing, thereby avoiding high temperature pasteurization which degrades the nutritive qualities inherent in the water
Basically, at this point, I could get into exactly what that entails – but it matters less than what Trader Joe’s is really trying to do with all this fancy labeling. True coconut water purists – those who turning to coconut wateras a lifestyle choice – pay considerable attention to the origin and method of pasteurization of their water. For instance, this blog post goes into depth at great length about the various virtues and sins committed by coconut water bottlers. Trader Joe’s new 100% Pure Single Origin Coconut Water is Trader Joe’s response to these concerns – a coconut water targeted at the discerning coconut water drinker.
While that’s all well and wonderful, what does it mean to someone like me who already enjoys Trader Joe’s existing coconut water offerings fairly well, and technical discussions of pasteurization processes very little. For that person, you can safely ignore this little bottle and continue to purchase the big carton, as usual. You can imagine the difference between these two as something like the difference between Perrier bottled water and Arrowhead. By all means, go for the Perrier if you fancy yourself a bottled water connoisseur, or have the money to spare. For everyone else, the difference between the two will be less than the pressure on your wallet.
Would I Recommend It: Only to serious coconut water enthusiasts.
Would I Buy It Again: I’ll be sticking with TJ’s other coconut water.
Final Synopsis: An ostensibly higher-quality coconut water meant to target the discerning coconut water crowd.
There’s never been a shortage of pancakes with stuff mixed in. Just pop your head into a Denny’s any given Saturday – pancakes with blueberries, pancakes with banana, pancakes with walnuts or pecans – the list goes on. However, never before now have I seen anything like Trader Joe’s Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix. For some reason, no on has really bothered to mix tiny bits of crisped, sweet coconut into pancakes – and that’s surprising because the results are quite good.
Trader Joe’s starts things off with an amazing new pancake mix. Instead of their ordinary buttermilk pancake mix that requires eggs, milk, etc, this new mix requires nothing but a little water. On to this they throw in a good helping of crunchy pieces of toasted coconut. The result is super easy to make pancakes with a natural sweet crunch to them.
Pancakes are one of those delicious breakfast foods that everyone can agree on. And when I say everyone, I mean world wide. Some sort of pancake variation has been, at various points throughout history, invented indepedentently on every continent except Antarctica. From Ethopian injera to Tamil uttapam to Swedish pannkakor to the American flapjack, batter sizzled up in a griddle and served hot has become something of a worldwide staple. Of course though they may all share the name, the pancake varies widely from iteration to iteration. Sweet, savory, thick, thin, round, flat – the variations know no end.
Here in the States, the main pancake question is whether or not you’ll be getting thick and fluffy ones, or thin, crepe-like ones. This can be a thorny questions, with fans coming down firmly in favor of both types. Trader Joe neatly side steps the issue by providing directions for both kinds of pancakes on the side of the box. In fact, TJ couldn’t make preparing these pancakes any easier. The mix is all inclusive, all you need to bring to the kitchen is the water, and the pancake mix does the rest – no eggs or milk necessary.
Of course, this magical convenience is only possible because the mix includes dry, powdered milk and egg in the batter mix. While in theory these dehydrated and canned ingredients should be inferior to adding the real thing, in practice I found that the pancakes didn’t really suffer from it. In fact, these pancakes are just as good any you’ll get from any other off-the-shelf boxed mix. Depending on the proportion of water to batter you control how fluffy/dense your griddle cakes come out – from full-blown fluffy flapjacks to the paper-thin Swedish style and anything in between.
What really sets this mix apart, of course, is the toasted coconut. Joe doesn’t skimp on this part of this mix, and you can expect every bite of your pancake to contain at least a touch of crispy coconut. The coconut does two things for the pancakes, both of them sublte. The first is that they add a bit of unexpected texure. After coming off the griddle the bits are postivley crispy, and give the flapjack a bit of extra, crunchy bite. This isn’t necessarily a big selling point, but it didn’t really bother me much either.
The more subtle effect is on the taste. The toasted coconut infuses the pancakes with a light coconut taste. Noticeable, but not so heavy that it leaves you smacking your lips or anything. It’s more of a low key sweetness, a light touch that is easily lost under a moderate amount of maple syrup or butter. That said, they’re sweet enough from these coconut bits that you’ll probably find you’ll want to use less syrup than usual. In fact, in the best tradition of bluberry pancakes, the coconut is nearly sweet enough that you might consider forgoing syrup at all. Almost, that is, but not quite. After one pancake without syrup, you’ll probably reach for the Aunt Jemima’s
In the end, these are perfectly ordinary pancakes with a little novel touch of coconut to them. How much that sells these for you depends on how much you like coconut. There certainly aren’t any flaws to the mix, but it’s also not something I would feel compelled to buy again just for the sake of getting a little more coconut in my breakfast. Out of everything the mix has to offer, it’s actually the ease of preparation that sells them the most. Being able to whip up tasty pancakes with just a bit of water was downright enjoyable.
If TJ’s starts making more pancake flavor variations with this same mix I’ll happily pick them up. Until then, this box will probably last me quite a while.
Would I Recommend It: Sure, the sweet coconut is a natural complement to the pancake batter.
Would I Buy It Again: No, probably not.
Final Synopsis: A novel and easy-to-make, but otherwise ordinary, pancake mix.
Ever since the first time I saw a coconut, that summer evening when my father came through the door with this large, brown, sloshing nut, gathered us kids around and proceeded to dismantle it with a power drill, I’ve been drawn to the enigmatic drupe of the tropics. As the power drill story illustrates, however, it’s not very easy to incorporate coconut into one’s diet. As such, I’m a sucker for new approaches to the fruit, and was eager to taste test this brand new item.
Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s Lightly Sweetened Coconut Strips is a close miss at best. Coconut is one of those polarizing foods that cab lead people to violent dispute. I myself have mixed feelings on coconut. I want to love it, I want it to be everything I hope it to be – exotic, refreshing, tasty – but sometimes I’m forced to face facts and admit that it falls short. Which, in this case, it does.
The coconut strips falter in two big departments – taste and texture, texture being the more grievous error. The taste is not bat exactly but the sweetness comes on too stridently. Though only “lightly” sweetened, the added sugar overpowers and clashes with the mild, subtly salty, tropical taste of the coconut flesh. The texture, not to mince words, is a little bit like a firm eraser. There’s such a thing as a pleasant chewiness and a firm tooth feel, but this offers neither. The texture is much too tough and rubbery to make chewing on the thick strips enjoyable.
Overall, the coconut strips feel like a rough draft of a better product. The potential for a delicious snack is in there somewhere, but as it stands this is the sort of party food that everyone tastes once and doesn’t come back to.
Would I Recommend It: Not really.
Would I Buy It Again: Perhaps, if someday my craving for coconut manages to overpower my good sense.
Final Synopsis: Too tough, too sweet.
Nothing ever sounds so good to me as coconut milk. I don’t know why this is, because every time I have some I’m inevitably disappointed. I blame cultural indoctrination for my consistently high hopes – mainly Sesame Street.
As a child I remember watching one of the recurring animated segments that would run from time to time on that saintly old show, the simple story a little boy in Jamaica (or some such Carribean Island) who wants nothing but a nice glass of coconut milk before bed time, receives it, and becomes infinitely content. What was coconut milk, I wondered, watching this little drama unfold, and how good must it be? I supposed it to be something unearthly sweet and creamy and delicious.
Alas, I grew older. And as I grew older it came to be that I would taste coconut milk. And through tasting it I came to know the bitter world of disappointment that comes to claim us all. Coconut milk, I learned, basically tastes like water diluted with milk, nothing so exotic as I had dreamed. And so I turned my attention to other things, and experienced much and forgot coconut milk, forgot it until today.
Trader’s Joe’s Unflavored Organic Coconut Milk Beverage lured me with that same exotic appeal from my youth, and while it does not redeem those lost childhood dreams, for what it is it is quite good. This coconut milk beverage, and note the addition of the word beverage here, is basically just a soy milk substitute. The taste is very close to the taste of ordinary soy milk (essentially undetectable to a regular guy like me), but is noticeably thicker and creamier, and leaves a mellow, lingering taste in the mouth.
This creaminess is due to the ingredients behind the coconut milk beverage, which is not actually coconut milk per se, but coconut cream mixed with water. To me, this would seem to be basically the same thing as coconut milk, seeing as that coconut cream is just coconut milk that has had the water simmered out of it. Evidently that’s not the way the truth in labeling division of the US Gov’t sees it though.
At any rate, the main audience for this product doesn’t seem to be me so much as it does those people whose stomach’s are quite prickly when it comes to milk and/or soy based products. I can’t speak for those fine people, but as someone blithely lactose tolerant I thought this product was a bit nicer than ordinary unflavored soy milk for my cereal, but still no replacement for the good ol’ cow.
Would I Recommend It: Only to those on the look for something other than soy milk.
Would I Buy It Again: Sorry, but it just doesn’t fill any needs in my life.
Final Synopsis: A good go to for the soy-sensitive, it not the childhood dreamers.