It's like 'Love Actually'  in liquid form
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Credit: Photo courtesy of Amazon

Every winter, as coffee brands try their hardest to encapsulate the spirit of the holidays, we can expect to see dozens of faux-cozy pine tree-smelling roasts hit the shelves. These are the blends that come in green and red packaging, and are maybe adorned with the silhouette of a candy cane and reek of market research and endless PowerPoint presentations based on the question of “what kind of coffee do millennials want during the holidays?”

For the most part, every single company makes the exact same thing: a medium roast that smells like pine trees and tastes like watered down gingerbread. It’s the stuff you want to drink out of a giant mug as your scroll through your Amazon wish list and decide which family member is getting the kindle edition of My Brilliant Friend.

Enter Trader Joe’s: Everyone’s favorite grocery store that uses some kind of voodoo hex to keep their prices so low. One day, while perusing their aisles in search of pistachios, I came upon their Wintry Blend coffee. I can admit that I was drawn in by the packaging. I can’t exactly pinpoint what happened in my body that day to force my arm to shoot out and plop the cardboard tube in my shopping basket, but let me tell you this: I’m sure as shit happy I did. Little did I know at the time, but I’d found the best holiday coffee out there.

I must admit, I was immediately suspicious upon opening the package. Wintry Blend smells like you think: wintry. You’re hit with cloves, cinnamon, pine, and peppercorns. I half expected Hanukkah Harry to pop out and hand me a wooden horse.

The fact is, a lot of bad coffee smells promising thanks to artificial scents, oils, and sweeteners that specifically appeal to the side of humanity that wants chocolate chip cookies all day, errr’day. So, while TJ’s Wintry Blend produces an olfactory experience akin to Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah all rolled into one, one can’t help but feel suspicious about the larger-than-life smell.

I decided to brew my first cup on a balmy October morning and was hit with that very same holiday smell as it dripped down my Mr. Coffee. I poured mine into my Extra Crispy-branded mug (courtesy of a killer book release party) and doctored it up with a dash of lactose-free milk and brown sugar. Then I got back into bed, and had my first sip.

Now, I know you’re not all here to read about my morning routine of bedside coffee and cuddles, so I’ll get to the point. What’s that phrase all the Gen. Z kids say when something cool happens to them? Ah yes, I was shook. As it stands, Trader Joe’s Wintry Blend coffee is now one of my favorite holiday blends. It’s not the fanciest nor smoothest cup of coffee I’ve ever had—and I’d feel just wrong drinking it in the summer—but that doesn’t stop it from being perfect. Think of this coffee as Love Actually in liquid form.

When the sun starts setting early, and you wake up the sound of geese migrating south, you know it’s time for the kind of coffee that gives you that coziness on the inside that plaid gives you on the outside. This is stuff you want to drink while listening to Bon Iver under many more blankets than you need. The combination of cinnamon, peppercorns, and white cloves coats your insides with nostalgia from past holidays and transports you into your childhood bed. It's more than a seasonal coffee. It’s a first-class ticket to the holidays that only takes a few minutes and some milk and sugar to redeem.