Friday, June 23, 2017

Trader Joe’s Tea Selection – Still Not There Yet – SpontaneiTea

This is a recovered blog post from SpontaneiTea, a blog that used to be hosted on Tea Trade, but went down when that site's blog hosting was discontinued. The original post was published on July 18th, 2013.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about Trader Joe’s tea on my old tea blog.

I shop regularly, but infrequently at Trader Joe’s, mainly picking up items like canned clams, bulk bags of raw nuts, and cheese. There are some things I absolutely love about Trader Joe’s: many of the products I like most (and buy most) are ones that I think offer exceptional value, combining low price with consistently high quality.

Some of the cheeses cost almost half what I’d expect to pay for a cheese of similar quality: there’s a New Zealand grass-fed cheddar for around $5 a pound, and for closer to $4 you can get domestic cheddars that far surpass the quality I have been able to find in a typical supermarket. And there are other little details that keep me coming back…the 500 gram bar of 70% dark chocolate for under $5, jars of Kalamata olives that taste great and are really cheap, $1 CLIF bars. I even like some of their packaged bread.

A decent company, treating their employees well

In addition to this, I have a decent feeling about Trader Joe’s as a corporation: I’ve known many people who have worked there and they have all told me that the company treats their employees well.

Weaknesses of Trader Joe’s

In other areas though, Trader Joe’s really falls short. Their seafood selection is not the most sustainable, as assessed by my looking up of their offerings on the Seafood Watch website. And I’m not a huge fan of their produce, although they sometimes have things I think are worth buying. And tea is yet another part of the store where their selection just doesn’t do it for me:

The tea selection at my local Trader Joe's

The selection changes somewhat over time, but the gist of it has stayed the same since I discovered this chain back around 2006. The tea is all cheap, for what it is, $2 for a box of teabags that would probably cost closer to $3 in a typical supermarket, but the problem is what it is: low-quality tea in tea bags. There is no loose-leaf tea, and there isn’t any tea that I would consider high-quality artisan tea. As much as I prefer loose tea, there are some very good brands of high-quality, whole-leaf or at least larger-broken-leaf tea in sachets, including Two Leaves Tea, Novus Tea, or even predominately loose-leaf brands like Rishi or Adagio.

Brands I’d prefer to the selection offered

Even if Trader Joe’s were going to stick with basic tea bags, I think they could do better. In my old post, I recommended Ten Ren, Foojoy, Harney and Sons, and Jacksons of Piccadilly as companies that offer much higher-quality tea bags than anything I’ve ever tried from Trader Joe’s. Ten Ren and Foojoy really stand out as their prices are competitive with Trader Joe’s teas, suggesting Trader Joe’s could stock them as-is.

And can’t they sell at least one loose tea? Even most supermarkets have something, maybe Lipton’s loose black tea or Twinings Earl Grey.

What do you think?

Do you ever shop at Trader Joe’s? How do you feel about the chain as a whole?
If you’ve tried it, do you like the tea in Trader Joe’s?
Would you like Trader Joe’s to stock loose tea?
What do you think of my recommendations of the brands that I think are superior (both in terms of quality and value) to what Trader Joe’s offers? Do you agree? Or would you have a different perspective on what brands might be a better choice?