5 Things You Didn’t Know About Trader Joe’s Coffee

updated Apr 21, 2020
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Credit: Dana McMahan

The latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast was released yesterday and it’s all about coffee. (Note: Execs recorded it over the last six weeks and, although they were torn about releasing the episode during a global pandemic, they ultimately decided that everyone still needs a good cup of coffee.) The episode was full of lots of interesting tidbits (like why TJ’s won’t do curbside pickup and a sneak peek of six fun new products that will be coming out shortly) but most of the time was spent talking about coffee. The hosts discussed how coffee is harvested, interviewed some of the coffee experts on staff, and even shared some fun facts about TJ’s coffee that most shoppers probably didn’t know.

Let’s take a look at some of those fun facts.

Credit: Dana McMahan

1. Trader Joe’s was one of the first companies to put whole coffee beans in a can.

“Trader Joe’s pretty much was the first to put the whole bean in a can,” says Mike, one of TJ’s coffee experts. The hosts talked about how most people think of grounds in a can, so putting whole beans in a can was a unique twist. TJ’s started using cans in the early ’80s because it made the packaging process faster and the retailer was able to get the beans from the roaster to the package much quicker than with other materials. What does speed matter? The faster the beans were packaged, the more freshness they maintained.

2. But they’re about to launch compostable packaging.

In addition to cans, Trader Joe’s also sells certain coffee beans and grounds in bags and pods. And soon, they’ll have fully compostable bags. “We have worked with a couple of our major vendors to come up with a home compostable bag,” says Lauren, another one of TJ’s coffee geniuses. “We are going to attempt to move in that direction and we’re doing the same thing with our pods and a couple of our other items in the category.” The compostable packaging should hit stores within the next six or 12 months.

3. They don’t have lots of flavored whole bean options.

The coffee aisle in Trader Joe’s doesn’t look all that limited, especially compared to the rest of the store where you don’t have quite as many choices, but if you’re looking for, say, doughnut-flavored whole beans, you’re going to have to look somewhere else. “We do shy away from flavored whole beans,” Lauren points out. “We have French Vanilla, it’s a very applicable flavor. Everybody drinks French Vanilla coffee I think or has at some point.” But beyond that, the interesting whole bean flavors are mostly limited to seasonal specials.

4. They’re coming out with an instant cold brew coffee.

The episode’s hosts said that cold brew coffee is one of the biggest trends they’ve seen over the past couple of years. The grocer already sells a concentrate and they have more cold brew-related products in the pipeline. One the podcasters were willing to tell us about: cold brew instant coffee, which is just cold brew concentrate that has been freeze dried (like all instant coffee). “So when you get it home and you pour it in your cold or hot cup, it’s gonna dissolve right in there,” Lauren says. The hosts don’t say when it will hit stores, though, so be on the lookout.

5. Trader Joe’s will often buy an entire farm’s worth of coffee beans.

Trader Joe’s works with small farms in remote places all along the equator. “We’ll take a farm’s entire production for that year,” says Trader Joe’s Director of Words, Phrases, and Clauses, Tara Miller. It’s part of their small lot program and this year, they’re working with eight farms to do this. In 2021, that number will increase to 10 to 12. The only problem? Sometimes customers fall in love with one type of coffee and, even if TJ’s works with the same farm again the next year, the coffee might not taste exactly the same.

Do you have a favorite coffee treat at Trader Joe’s? Tell us about it in the comments below.