Flavored coffee taste test: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice vs. Vanilla Chai-Spiced

I picked up a canister of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee last time I was at the grocery, and thought I’d do a quick review and comparison to the beloved and discontinued Vanilla Chai-Spiced (VCS) Coffee.

Flavor-wise, the pumpkin is definitely spice-strong, with the addition of pumpkin spice oil (I’m assuming some sort of natural oil blend?) to add to the coffee’s flavor. It has a smoother taste overall (when compared to the VCS), which is surprising given that the spices are heavier. The VCS coffee has (understandably) a very strong vanilla aroma, with a more muted but rough spice note.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee ingredients: Coffee, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground vanilla beans, pumpkin spice oil.

I also tried both sweetened with a splash of milk. The milk rounded out the pumpkin flavors, bringing it out a little while toning down the spices. With sweetened milk I found the vanilla coffee to become almost dessert-like, strong and sweet.

Overall, I like the pumpkin more, surprisingly enough. I think it’s a little more woodsy and warm, which is exactly what this fall weather is calling for (maybe having these be seasonal items isn’t such a bad deal).


My three favorite grad student hacks for flavored coffee are:

  • A spoonful of sweetened condensed milk, with a nod to the coffee drinks of Southeast Asia. Trader Joe’s carries it in a squeezable, refrigerated bottle which makes it much easier to use a little at a time when compared to the canned milk.
  • A spoonful of Massey’s vanilla paste, which will add a little sweetness and a wonderful amount of flavor, and will be useful in the pumpkin spice for those of you who miss the vanilla flavoring of the original spiced coffee.
  • Brew the coffee extra strong, and then ice it down (milk and sugar optional). Delicious!

A quick Skype Monday morning with a good friend in Switzerland informed me that Starbucks has expanded the highly popular Pumpkin Spice Latte to the Swiss market for the first time, so with the help of a giftcard I went out and bought a cup in honor of the famous drink’s introduction. Unfortunately it was too sweet and chemical-y for me (blame the flavor syrup), with beads of an odd orange-colored oil on top. Regardless, here’s a “cheers” to her and access to a nostalgic American favorite 🙂

Honestly, I generally prefer a good set of beans “straight up,” having cut out most flavored coffees in my diet due to their artificial ingredients. The Trader Joe’s offerings make it easy for me to enjoy these previously forbidden drinks, with their natural flavors and doable price point. At ~$8 for a 14 oz canister, it costs the same amount as two pumpkin spice lattes from the ‘Bucks.

Definitely a more affordable, time-saving fall alternative, so stock up if you love it, because this is also a limited edition seasonal item (although it was offered last year).

Now I’m going to take my over-caffeinated self and attempt to get some work done this morning!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee
SKU #: 97234
Data Code: 00972345

2 thoughts on “Flavored coffee taste test: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice vs. Vanilla Chai-Spiced

  1. Pingback: Trader Joe’s Vanilla Chai-Spiced Coffee | Don the Apron!

  2. I became totally addicted to the Vanilla Chai Spice Coffee. It was like starting every day with a sinful desert. Due to Trader Joe’s discontinuing this product, I am now in fullblown withdrawal! They said I should try their Pumpkin Spice Coffee. Fortunately, they were giving free samples that day so I tried it. I am so glad I didn’t buy it because it was not even close to the Vanilla Chai Spice. I did not like it at all.

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