Trader Joe’s is usually a good place to get good coffee at a very good price, with lots of single-origin and premium coffees to choose from. On my last shopping trip, I spotted a new addition to their coffee lineup: Trader Joe’s Single Serve Coffee Cups that are made to work with a Keurig coffee maker. Keurig fans will be happy to see these and will be even happier about their price, which is only $2.99 per box.
These single serve coffee cups are not made with the signature K-cup packaging that you’re probably used to and that is because Green Mountain Coffee Roaster’s K-cup patent recently expired, so the door is open for other manufacturers of similar coffee pods. Trader Joe’s version has soft coffee-filter walls instead of firm plastic ones, and a plastic, not foil, lid. The plastic and foil combination keeps the coffee in the K-cups tightly sealed in an airtight environment. The coffee filter body pod doesn’t, so Trader Joe’s pods are individually packaged in little bags to keep their coffee fresh. This extra packaging means that you only get 7 pods in a standard box, where you would probably find 10 or 16 of the traditional K-cup pods. But they’re still a good deal at their low price point ($.42 per cup).
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can’t beat K-cups for convenience when it comes to coffee making. Fortunately, there are more choices than ever when it comes to K-cups. Some new options in the coffee aisle are Starbucks Vanilla and Caramel K-Cups, the first flavored coffee K-cup offerings from the coffee chain. You’ll immediately notice that they have a little extra flash to their packaging, as the tops of the K-cups have a metallic shine to them!
Premade coffee drinks are rarely as good as the real thing. Bottled frappuccinos are a great example of this. They’re fairly tasty (and I know people who just love them), but they don’t compare to a freshly made frappuccino in terms of flavor or consistency. Still, I was interested in the Starbucks Discoveries line when I heard about it. It is made up of Caffe Mocha, Vanilla Latte and Caramel Macchiato coffee drinks, packaged in cartons and available in the refrigerated section of the grocer store. They’re intended to be a ready-to-drink beverage that, unlike the bottled frappuccinos, is just like what you get when you order the drink in a Starbucks store.
I happen to be a fan of iced Caramel Macchiatos, so that was the first flavor I went for. I loved the look and shape of the unusual carton, which is taller and somewhat more stylish than your average milk carton. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the drink inside tastes almost exactly like the iced Caramel Macchiatos that they serve at Starbucks – albeit with the elements already mixed up, inside of layered together. You could clearly taste coffee, milk, caramel and vanilla in the drink, and it wasn’t too sweet or too rich. I really enjoyed it over ice, though the ice waters it down quickly just like the ice in the in-store version does, so it is best if you can drink it quickly.
I still like the in-store Caramel Macchiato best, of course, since I like the way I can drink it in layers and the extra drizzle of caramel sauce that finishes it off. But this is an excellent stand in for Caramel Macchiato fans – especially fans who want to save a few dollars by buying a big carton to enjoy, rather than buying drink after drink when they’re in the mood for caramel.
I was a fan of the Starbucks Reserve Hawaii Ka’u the first time I had it, and was glad to see it back on the menu boards at Starbucks this month. The coffee is from Ka’u, a very small coffee growing region bordering Kona that is renowned for it’s coffee even though it is much less famous than its neighbor. The coffee has some of the same characteristics of Kona coffee, but since the region is smaller, the flavors are even more distinct.
The coffee tastes like creamy not-too-sweet milk chocolate, toasted caramel and a hint of toasted coconut that was only there if I hunted for it. It is velvety, with a great mouthfeel, and has a pretty mellow acidity that gives it a smooth and lingering finish. If you are getting the idea that I like this coffee, you are absolutely correct. I was thrilled to see it back and am a big fan – a big enough fan to get this as often as possible when it’s available, even though it is one of the more expensive Reserve coffees. It is available in very limited quantities and tends to sell out quickly, so I, for one, will be getting it while I can.