Every summer Trader Joe’s parades out a new selection of beverages with the goal of quenching your thirst. Sometimes these are legitimately quenching, like Trader Joe’s Coconut Water, and sometimes they’re just picking your pocket book, like Trader Joe’s Maple Water.
|What it is:||Green tea with a touch of mint.|
|Price:||$2.99 for a 64 oz. jug|
|Worth it:||Yes. Great tea at a good price.|
What makes something truly refreshing? I couldn’t tell you – but I can say that Trader Joe’s Moroccan Mint Tea definitely has *it*. A cool, quenching not-too-minty, subtly sweet green tea that is here just in time to beat back the summer heat. It might just be tea, but it’s tea done right.
What’s so good about it? This green tea is infused with both spearmint and peppermint, then sweetened with a touch of cane sugar. Unlike most mint teas, which tend to be overpoweringly minty, or cloyingly sweet, TJ’s Moroccan Mint Tea gets it just right. Take a big swig of this, and the first thing you’ll taste is… tea. The actual kettle-brewed flavor of a cool green tea. Notice the deep mellowness of it – not too astringent, certainly not sweet – just right. Only as you begin to take a gulp does the minty back show itself, enhancing the flavor of the tea and cooling the palette without overwhelming the natural flavor of the brew.
It’s a similar play with the cane sugar – just a hint has been added. Just enough to balance out the naturally bitter edge of tea, but not enough to make it a traditionally sweet drink.
Trader Joe’s attributes this tea to Moroccan, but this sort of sweetened mint tea is common throughout the Mediterranean regions – or anywhere that the sun gets too damn hot. If that sounds like where you live, you’ll definitely want to consider picking up at bottle.
Would I Recommend It: Yes – extremely refreshing!
Would I Buy It Again: Most certainly.
Final Synopsis: Perfectly balanced, wonderfully quenching tea.
You guys know me – I never miss a chance to talk about rooibos tea. What a surpise, then, to see that Trader Joe’s has brought out a new Pumpkin Spice Rooibos herbal tea! The tin looks very nice – but this is rooibos tea we’re talking about. Is there anyway it can live up to the pretty packaging? Frankly, no – not at all. While it’s an improvement on other types of rooibos tea, it’s still just not that great.
|What it is:||Bland rooibos tea with cinnamon and pumpkin herbal spices|
|Price:||$3.99 for 20 tea bags|
|Worth it:||No, rooibos tastes like cardboard|
Generally, when you spend enough time with a food product, no matter what your initial reaction is, you tend to warm up to it. I’ll share a story with you. The Japanese produce a food called natto, which is a “fermented” (read: partially rotten) slag of soy beans. Natto is typcally served in these little styrofoam bowls, about the size of a cassette tape, and when you crack one open all you see is this beige, lumpy, nobby, sticky, slimy mass of tiny, fetid soy beans. You’re then supposed to stir it up with chopsticks, which makes the gooey beans froth up into a white, stringy mess – almost like a thick tangle of spiderwebs mixed into the beans. I’m not even going to describe the sound or smell it makes when you stir these up. The taste is, as you can probably guess, gross and slimy and sticky. In short, it’s a food that offends all 5 senses – a foul-looking, foul-smelling, foul-tasting, gross sounding mess with a repulsive texture. Sometimes people like to crack a raw egg into it.
After living in Japan for a time, and being surrounded by the natto-eating Japanese, I eventually came to enjoy natto myself. It took about 18 months of extended exposure, but even to this day I will still pick up natto from local Asian market and have it for breakfast. My point is that, after extended exposure, I was eventually able to appreciate the acquired taste for natto and even came to enjoy it. Yet despite numerous tries and repeated attempts, I am absolutely unable to apprecieate rooibos tea on any level. It’s simply the lamest drink on the planet.
Maybe the difference is that natto, for all it’s shortcomings, is at least a taste. Rooibos tea, on the other hand, tastes like wet cardboard. That’s not meant to be a put down on rooibos, it’s simply the most descriptive phrase I can think of. Rooibos tea tastes exactly like wet cardboard – and coming from a guy who ate his fair share of pasteboard story book covers as a child, I know what I’m talking about. Of course, what else would you expect from rooibos tea? After all, the rooibos bush, from which it is cut, basically just a dry collection of scrubland twigs, and rooibos tea is just some of the twig shavings from that bush.
Yes, twigs! You’re boiling twigs! Look at what you’re doing people! And sure, I suppose you could say that we’re just “boiling leaves” when we make ordinary tea – but the difference is that there’s a long history of delicious edible leaves (Uh, Spinach? I’m looking at you!), and no record at all of delicious twigs. In fact, I’d say anytime you find yourself eating or drinking twigs, that’s a sure sign that you’re doing something wrong.
Look, it’s absolutely telling that Trader Joe’s keeps coming out with versions of rooibos tea that are rooibos…and something else. Trader Joe’s Rooibos and Honeybush tea was certainly an attempt at trying to make these twigs more palatable, This new Pumpkin Spice Rooibos tea does a much better job of it, adding to the rooibos cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin flavor. Trader Joe’s is definitely onto something here! These traditional pumpkin pie spices add a delightful scent to the tea, and lend it a spicy, nuanced flavor tea. They just need to follow the trend and next time leave the rooibos out entirely. A pumpkin spice herbal tea that doesn’t also taste like wet cardboard? That’d be incredible. As it stands, this tea is palatable in so far as you can ignore the rooibos part. Everything else but that is nuanced and pleasantly invigorating and seasonal.
I’d certainly praise this as the best rooibos tea I’ve ever had, but that is faint praise indeed. If you’d like to drink a nice cinnamon spice tea this isn’t exactly that, but it’s close enough that it may satisfy you. However, I would strongly advise you to try some of Trader Joe’s much stronger Vanilla and Cinnamon Black Tea or delectable Spiced Chai instead. If you prefer an herbal tea, then definitely go with Trader Joe’s Herbal Blend Harvest Tea – a seasonal blend so good that I literally count the days for its return. Or go ahead and try this pumpkin spice rooibos – just don’t come complaining to me when you throw out the tin before you finish it.
Would I Recommend It: No, there are better teas at TJ’s.
Would I Buy It Again: No man, it’s rooibos tea.
Final Synopsis: A good cinnamon herbal tea, undermined by bland rooibos.
I’ve reviewed a good number of teas for this blog. Flavorful teas, and bland teas. Interesting teas and slightly unnerving teas. All of them, however, gentle teas. Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Tea is not a gentle tea. It’s a hardcore ass-kicker tea, capable of turning a cup of hot water blackish-red in seconds and almost frightening in its intensity.
Clearly this tea is brewed by and for people who live in miserable northern latitudes, who have to drag themselves out of their drafty stone cottages to go cut peat in a bog all day. It’s a straight and strong black tea – grown in the Himalayan Assam Valley and delivered straight to you in a box of 80 tea bags for a mere $2.99. That’s a good deal for any tea – let alone one that is both a) very drinkable and b) strong enough to brew a couple of cups off of.
|What it is:||Strong black tea.|
|Price:||$2.99 for 80 tea bags.|
|Worth it:||Yes. This is good, bold tea.|
Unlike Trader Joe’s much milder, if still strong, English Breakfast Tea, their Irish Breakfast Tea is so bold and robust that all you need to do is steep it for a few seconds. Let it soak for a minute or more and the tea becomes so strong it’s practically belligerent. Full-bodied and earthy, are the adjectives that Trader Joe’s elects to use. Sure, full-bodied in the way you might call Andre the Giant full-bodied. Earthy like you might call the Earth earthy. And that’s good, because it makes it my go to tea when I need to get my butt engaged in the morning.
Is it pleasant to drink? Not exactly. It’s not necessarily a harsh tea, but like any black tea it’s going to turn astringent and bitter after an over-long soak. It’s just that in this case, an over-long soak means ” almost immediately”. Luckily there’s a natural palative to an overly strong Irish tea – a dash of milk or cream. That’s how the Irish themselves take it, mellowed out to a relaxing brownish-tan with a good dash of dairy. Unless you enjoy rocking your tongue with a little extreme tea drinking, it’s how I’d recommend it to you as well. Of course, it’s just as good with any of Trader Joe’s milk substitutes, such as their coconut milk, or soy milk creamers.
For me, this tea was the equivalent of a tattooed biker with a heart of gold. It was a bit of a rough customer at first, and I wasn’t sure I was going to warm up to it’s brash ways, but then I noticed that all the tattoos were hearts that said “MOM” inside. It might take some getting used to, but once you start enjoying Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Tea, you’ll come to love it’s uniquely strong take on an otherwise mild beverage.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, but be ready with the milk.
Would I Buy It Again: I just finished my first box, and I miss it already.
Final Synopsis: Like three bags of regular black tea at once.
It’s been a while since we looked at Trader Joe’s tea selection. And honestly, that’s because Trader Joe’s teas run a little hot and cold. On the one hand I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s Spiced Chai Tea and their Autumn Harvest blend. On the other hand you have more, shall we say, lackluster offerings like their wretched Tropical Sweetened Matcha. When I saw the new gorgeous box of Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Rooibos and Honeybush Tea, I was immediately on board. Surely with box art this bold, this dynamic, surely it must be one of the good teas. Right?
Look, let’s start out with the positive stuff.
Fair trade products are worth supporting. As it turns out, corporations are incredibly good at exploiting the unrepresented and voiceless – particularly if the people being exploited are a continent or two away from the eventual consumer. In the same way that fair trade chocolate is important to developing sustainable economies (and environments) in Africa, fair trade tea is worth supporting. Also it’s organic, so that’s good too. Organic and Fairtrade – two strong, good adjectives leading us off right out the gate.The problem is that the product title doesn’t’ stop there, because then we get to the “rooibos” part.
I don’t do this often on this blog, but I’m going to make some strident, potentially divisive claims based more on personal opinion then objective polls of larger social trends. Rooibos tea is terrible. In the same way that people have risen to the defense of Trader Joe’s heavily sweetened corn-only salsa, I’m sure there are die-hard rooibos tea lovers who are going to take umbrage with this statement. To me however, rooibos tea taste like wet carboard. That was the first thought I had the first time I tried it, and it is the same thought I have had every time since. Rooibos tea tastes exactly like sucking on the paper stick of a Tootsie Roll Pop until it turns to mush.
Rooibos is an herbal tea, which means it isn’t a real tea made from the leaves of tea plants, but instead from the clippings of a broom-like scrub plant that grows in South Africa. It has been steadily growing in popularity the last few years because of…. something. I don’t know.
I honestly do not understand why people drink this tea, and I have regretted the purchase every time I picked it up. I had hopes that the promise of “Honeybush” being present in this Rooibos and Honeybush tea might make for a different experience. It does not. Honeybush is another South African bush commonly said to taste just like the rooibos bush only “a little sweeter”. “Little” being the important adjective in this phrase, meaning “not actually noticeably sweet at all”.
Here’s the other thing I think is weird. It takes an incredible amount of rooibos to brew even a single cup of rooibos tea. The given brewing instructions are to let one tea bag steep in your cup for 6 full minutes before you try sipping it. For a pot of tea they recommend adding one tea bag per person, and letting the pot steep for 8 minutes. That’s an extremely long soak. I dare you to try that with a bag of Trader Joe’s Original Irish Breakfast Tea, let alone several bags. After 6 minutes, the tea would be strong enough to overpower you in fight.
Again, yes the box is beautiful, the bags are beautiful, and even the box itself is well designed – incorporating a natural hinge and an exceptionally clever self-locking flap. The only problem is that I feel I would be just as well off gumming the edge of the box until it turns to pulp as I would be actually brewing the contents.
I may be well off the mark on this one – I’m willing to believe that someone loves this tea – it’s just that it it has any positive qualities I’m completely blind to them.
Would I Recommend It: This is very unlikely.
Would I Buy It Again: I don’t think so. If I get the hankering for rooibos again I reckon I can always just chew on an index card.
Final Synopsis: Rooibos tea always tastes like wet cardboard to me.
Yes, yes, yes Trader Joe’s! Now we’re talking awesome tea! Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea gives me a reason to look forward to tea time with eagerness every day. I have, to date, avoided reviewing TJ’s teas, for much the same reason that I avoided reviewing their otherwise amazing coffee – fear of dabbling in an arena where there is so much vehement opinion. But where regular Joe’s venture so too much venture I, and that leads us to tea.
Glancing at this box on the shelf I assumed TJ’s was making a play for the Lipton market share – their Harvest Blend tea box using the exact same color palette seen on Lipton’s giant boxes of stridently mundane tea bags. This thought was reinforced in my mind by the rather vague name. “Harvest blend” bringing to my mind the thought of nothing more flavorful than fallen foliage brewed over hot water. Ah, how wrong I was!
Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea packs an incredible amount of savory, spicy flavor into their large, square bags – so much that you can easily get two full cups of tea out of one bag. The taste is apparent immediately upon opening the box – a strong, redolent blend of orange, chicory, hibiscus and cinnamon on a soothing chamomile base. My experience with delightful smelling herbal teas has generally been that they smell much better than they actually taste in your cup. Incredibly, Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea actually tastes even better than it smells. A savory, full bodied spiciness comes out of the ingredients as they steep, along with a surprising sweetness – a very mellow, subtle sweetness that accentuates the mix of spices. I say surprising because there’s no added sweetener to the tea bags. The sweetness comes from, and I’m not certain on this but willing to make an educated guess, unimaginable magical sources. That or maybe the natural apple and orange. Forget about your tea for 15 or 20 minutes and the sweetness will have infused the whole cup, a distinct hint of ripe apple.
In any case, this tea has exactly what you want for cool, crisp autumn evenings. Soothing tastes, warming spices and gentle sweetness. Perfect for sipping in a sweater as the leaves blow by.
The box itself, by the way, wins the award for Craziest Product Description, an award I’m always happy to give out. The product copy has the tone of being trapped on a box not of it’s own design, desperately attempting to make sense of a mad world.
It begins by immediately questioning it’s own premise, “A fox enjoying a cup of tea?” it asks, then, realizing it’s blowing the sale, hastily attempts to cover up. “Of course.” Full stop. “It happens all the time – if that tea is Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea” You can almost hear the nervous tremble in its voice, reassuring itself more than anyone else. The box goes on to make several, increasingly unhinged claims. This includes the assertion that this tea will bring you “unbridled joy with each sip”, which is a lot more than I’ve ever asked from a tea, before suddenly announcing that it will make you feel like, “A wise owl who’s just discovered the secret of eternal happiness.”
This owl bit seems like a particularly random non-sequiter – until you open the box. Just under the flap sits a picture of a wide-eyed, staring owl, perhaps originally envisioned as a soothing image, but executed here in a hand-drawn, jittery style that makes the owl look strung out and harrowed. It gazes blankly at nothing with huge dilated pupils – as if it just discovered the secret of eternal happiness, and that secret is an unspeakably profane blood sacrifice.
Other than that, though, this is a very good tea.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, this is delicious tea!
Would I Buy It Again: Definitely, it’s got everything you want in a seasonal herbal tea.
Final Synopsis: The perfect tea for sipping as you watch the weather change.
[Editors Note: Today’s article may not be suitable for all audiences, in particular those with an aversion to purple prose and/or madness.]
Man oh man guys, I try to avoid any sort of shameless self-promotion on this blog, let alone before the article in question has even begun, but are you in for some sensationa;, insightful analysis today. Mango flavored green tea! That’s green tea with MANGO JUICE in it. Actually INSIDE – FLAVORING THE TEA. Whooooooo yeah! When I bought this I had no idea what sort of unimaginable treat I was in for – I mean, mango juice, green tea, who can imagine what tongue-tingling, soaring heights of flavor and…. and… and…
Guys, I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing for you today. I bought this even though I knew I wouldn’t have anything to say about it. Mango green tea tastes exactly how you think it tastes. Like ice tea with the nice flavor of mango juice in it, and a mellow, lingering mango after taste. There’s not much more to add. You know lemon flavored tea? Like that, but with mango juice instead. It’s good chilled, and I recommend it. That’s all I got.
Listen, I knew I shouldn’t have bought that dried green mango, but I thought I could handle it. I always think I can handle it, but mango has me locked tight in its grasp once again. I twist and writhe in the throes of my mango lord, my mango god, as it occupies every shape around me, blinding me with it’s majesty, looming out at me from every shelf and corner in Trader Joes.
“Mango!”, it shouts, unreasonably, as I browse for items to review.
“But Mango, I can’t buy you again,” I beseech it, “I’ve done mango all week.” “Mango!” it reiterates, unconvinced. “MANGO!”
Shut up mango, SHUT UP! You will not control me. This is it, this is the last of my unending mango madness. No more – you hear me. Leave me alone!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!
[Editor’s Note: The rest of this article has been transcribed as dictated by the author following the adminstration of a mild sedative and a period of enforced rest.]
Would I Recommend It To You: Yes, but gird your soul
Would I Buy It Again: Get away from me, Dark Temptress!
Final Synopsis: Like Plutonium or LSD, mango is best used in small, regulated amounts, and with a healthy respect for its dangers. A little mango here and there can make life worth living, but to make it the corner stone of your existence is to wager recklessly with the Devil.