The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe’s Volume 5

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The crew from What's Good at Trader Joe's? weighs in on 25 more products
What's Good at Trader Joe's?

The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe’s Volume 5

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

If you love Trader Joe's — the colorful shirts, the nametags, the friendly atmosphere, all the quirky products — then you've probably done product recon on What's Good at Trader Joe's?, the four-member team-review site that has been rating the store's best and worst products since August of 2010. Nathan Rodgers, his wife, Sonia, their friend Russ Shelly, and his wife, Sandy, set out almost five years ago to review the cult grocer's 4,500 or so products. They’ve been working their way through all of the offbeat supermarket’s offerings, and five categories are up for review today. 

Hot Beverages #5: Trader Joe's Gingerbread Coffee

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg make this coffee a great way to start a cold winter morning. It's like a gingerbread man took a little dip in your java.

Final rating: 7 out of 10

Hot Beverages #4: Trader Joe's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Although it's primarily a baking ingredient, it also makes a decent base for deep, dark hot cocoa. Add a good amount of sugar if you're averse to a bit of bitterness.

Final rating: 7.5 out of 10

Hot Beverages #3: Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Nathan and Sonia swear by this stuff and recommend you make it with milk. But whether you mix it with water, half and half, or black tea, as some of our readers have suggested, this is one unique chai. Tastes like a cuppa melted caramels.

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Hot Beverages #2: Trader José's Spicy Hot Cocoa

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Trader Joe's Mexican-American cousin José brings us this treat from south of the border. Similar to Nestle's popular Abuelita, it's hot chocolate with cinnamon and a bit of Latin love.

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Hot Beverages #1: Trader Joe's Vanilla and Cinnamon Black Tea

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Besides some of the coolest packaging we've seen from Trader Joe's, this "Lemur Tea" has the perfect combination of black tea, vanilla, and cinnamon, and it earned an almost perfect score from Russ and Sandy.  

Final rating: 9.5 out of 10

Condiments #5: Trader Joe's Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Low-fat yogurt seamlessly replaces sour cream in this snacktastic product. If you're into regular spinach dip, we don't think you'll mind this stuff at all. Perfect for pita, chips, or crackers.

Final rating: 7.5 out of 10

Condiments #4: Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

If regular guac and Greek yogurt hooked up and had offspring, it would undoubtedly taste like this. Sandy's aversion to guacamole prompted her to pass on this item, but Russ and a guest reviewer liked it enough to place it among this list of elite dips.

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Condiments #3: Trader Jacques’ Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Meaning "flower of salt," this delicious, drizzleable topping follows in the footsteps of great products like Salted Caramel Chai and the Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt Bar by allowing its saltiness to enhance the creamy caramel flavor [fleur de sel is French for "flower of salt," a term for really good sea salt].

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Condiments #2: Trader Joe's Organic Grade B Maple Syrup

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Thick, rich, and uber-mapley. The "B" in this syrup's name doesn't refer to a mark on its report card, but rather to its darker, less-sweet nature. 

Final rating: 8.5 out of 10

Condiments #1: Trader Joe's Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Nathan thinks it could be a tad crunchier, but this epic sequel to Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter is just as good as the original, and takes a small step away from butter in the direction of cookie.

Final rating: 9 out of 10

Gluten-Free Goodies #5: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rice Pasta and Cheddar

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

While Russ prefers the Corn Penne Pasta, Sandy gave this rice-based pasta a four — enough to slip this mac and cheese in at number five on our list.

Final rating: 6.5 out of 10

Gluten-Free Goodies #4: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

It seems like Trader Joe's has consistently gotten the taste of gluten-free products right, but textures often pose more of a challenge. However, if you're a fan of crispy chocolate chip cookies, à la Famous Amos, you won't be disappointed with the flavor or feel of these crunchable confections

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Gluten-Free Goodies #3: Trader Joe's Quinoa and Black Bean Infused Tortilla Chips

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Garlic, beans, and onion salt combine to create a perfect chorus of tortilla flavors. Add to that an amazing stoneground corn chip texture featuring grains of quinoa, and you might be tempted to give these crunchy morsels a nickname, like Russ did when he dubbed them "bean-wah" chips.

Final rating: 9 out of 10

Gluten-Free Goodies #2: Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Incredibly soft cookies, sweetened with fruit juice, and free not just from gluten, but also milk, eggs, soy, and peanuts... and they actually taste good! Whoever cooked these up is a miracle worker.

Final rating: 9.5 out of 10

Gluten-Free Goodies #1: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Macarons

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

It seems like a crime that you'll probably have to wait until September or so to try a package of this seasonal scrumptiousness. It should be noted that Nathan and Sonia are both self-proclaimed pumpkin addicts, especially around autumn, but they've given out exactly one perfect score in almost two years — and this was it.

Final rating: 10 out of 10

Frozen Desserts #5: Trader Joe's Vanilla Soy Creamy

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

If you like the taste of soy milk, you'll like the taste of this soy-based ice cream. Although it actually tastes like soy, it's smooth, refreshing, and it'll come in handy if summer 2015 turns out to be as hot as the last one. 

Final rating: 7.5 out of 10

Frozen Desserts #4: Trader Joe's Mini Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Wedges

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Are they fruit? Are they cheesecake? Are they ice cream? How can they be so many things at once? Why is there a huge plank of wood through each piece? More than just typical dairy treats, these one-of-a-kind dessert wedges are full of beautiful mysteries.

Final rating: 8 out of 10

Frozen Desserts #3: Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Vanilla ice cream is just boring old vanilla ice cream, right? Maybe not. Leave it to Trader Joe to perfect a classic. 

Final rating: 8.5 out of 10

Frozen Desserts #2: Trader Joe's Pomegranate Blueberry Sherbet

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

TJ's is very good at these creamy, fruity, frozen things. Though Sonia thinks they taste more like raspberry, and Nathan wishes they would have called it "sherbert" instead of "sherbet," the Rodgers family agrees that it's a winner. 

Final rating: 9 out of 10

Frozen Desserts #1: Trader Joe's Strawberry Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

It's like a bowl of mashed up frozen strawberries, but creamy, and without all the little seeds. This vegan dessert surprised the Shellys and surpassed their expectations.

Final rating: 9.5 out of 10

Worst Sweets #5: Trader Joe's Petite Cocoa Batons

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

These aren't even big enough to be batons for leprechauns or smurfs. They're kind of boring, kind of unsubstantial, and kind of not worth buying, if you ask us.

Final rating: 5.5 out of 10

Worst Sweets #4: Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

There are probably a few people out there who will disagree with us on this one, but when a chocolate cupcake is upstaged by its own icing, something just isn't working the way it's supposed to.

Final rating: 5.5 out of 10

Worst Sweets #3: Trader Joe's Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Why ruin perfectly good hazelnut shortbread by filling it with a sad Nutella knockoff with an unacceptable texture? It is with cookies as it is with people: It's what's on the inside that counts.

Final rating: 5.5 out of 10

Worst Sweets #2: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

The social media sphere was all abuzz with praises of this unusual yogurt flavor. We're not sure what those tweeps were smoking when they told their friends to try this stuff. Not that we're claiming our opinion is more valid than theirs... but we've reviewed at least eight Trader Joe's brand pumpkin products on our blog, and this one got the worst score of all.

 Final rating: 4 out of 10

Worst Sweets #1” Trader Joe's Golden Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

What's Good at Trader Joe's?

Note to Trader Joe: If you're going to claim there's delicious Fleur de Sel Caramel in your ice cream, you should actually go ahead and put some in. 

Final rating: 3.5 out of 10