{shortcode-22080075cccb874c353358849a3645567a687d9b}We all love the holiday season! Whether it’s for the everpresent festive spirit or the unavoidable family drama with finals season thrown in somewhere, the end of November through January 1 has a special place in every heart. And during this time of emotional rollercoaster riding, who doesn’t turn to the wondrous escape of holiday snacking?! Enter Trader Joe’s winter items! Horrifically, I’ve somehow spent the last twenty years of my life without ever stepping foot into the magical, life changing grocer known to its familiars as TJ’s. So, this year as part of my season of self-growth, I decided to change the game. I threw on my backpack, jumped on my bike, and secured my mask. It was the day I would finally lose my Trader Joe’s virginity. All for the noble cause of reviewing some festive winter foods!

Cranberry Chevre: It’s good, but not as good as the blueberry addition

As you know, before this adventure I’d never tripped to TJ’s, BUT I was lucky enough to have roommates who enabled me to enjoy the blueberry chevre. I must say, in comparison, the cranberry is yummy and is encrusted with crimson berries, but it’s just sooo sweet. The Harvard spirit in a cheese is great, and super sweet Harvard cheese in a salad might actually be delicious, but if you’re out here just trying to enjoy some stellar goat cheese, this might not be your first choice.

Rating: 6.5/10, would eat again probably

Winter Wake-up Tea: Absolutely delicious

Loved! This tea is spicy and packed with flavor. Side note: Being of 100 percent Northern European descent, I likely found this tea extra ~spicy~. Anyway, this purchase was a win, and it’s worked its way into my daily routine. Not saying I’ve been able to transition away from a fat coffee before my 9 a.m’s, but this cinnamon tea definitely has me feeling cozy. Winter Wake-Up Tea for the win! Seriously, go buy some before finals suck out your will to live let alone your ability to wake up. And, for all you chemistry concentrators out there, I bet this would be the perfect addition to Gregg’s “Tea, Tucci, Tuesday, at Two” advising office hours!

Rating: 9/10, would definitely drink again

Almond Nog: It’s very almondy

If you’re going for a nog that’s both dairy free AND alcohol free (as I’m sure many of you are because if you’re a Harvard student under the age of 21, you obviously don’t drink), this is a solid choice. TJ’s almond nog has a good base of traditional spice flavors and a pretty thick consistency considering the almond milk base. The sipping experience was soothing, and I can imagine consuming this after a stress-packed exam or during a lively family holiday dinner might bring me some inner peace. My only criticism is that this almond nog is more almond tasting than other brands I’ve tried. Still would suggest this as a great addition to your next upcoming on-campus holiday gathering, but alas…

Rating: 7/10, a solid beverage choice

Hot Chocolate Sticks: Most. Disappointing. By far.

Honestly, I’m not sure how this product made it on the shelves. Idk if I’m incapable of reading directions (which I suspect isn’t the case), or if the directions apply to a thing that simply sucks, but I would not call the endgame of this adventure hot chocolate. I heated up some milk, stirred away with the “hot chocolate stick”, and waited for the clumpy mess in a mug to turn into a lovely winter drink. It did not, NOT, not even kind of happen. The taste wasn’t horrible at first—like shopping a required class you don’t want to take—but the more I drank, the less I wanted to be there. At least with those classes you know they’re going to rip out your soul. First-time TJer me, on the other hand, picked up the “hot chocolate sticks” expecting a gem... Now, I am only a husk of my former self :’(

Rating: 1/10, would passionately lobby for its removal from all TJ’s nationwide

Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s: #1 Best Snack

These beauties came in number one for most delicious snack from this selection of winter items. I’ve always been an avid supporter of the Oreo, but the Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s have stolen my heart. They are the perfect mix of chocolate sandwich cookie and pepperminty goodness. The cream filling contains little flecks of candy cane crunch, elevating the texture above that of the traditional Oreo. Even my roommate, who scrapes the filling out of her Oreos, thoroughly enjoyed the ENTIRE Candy Cane Joe-Joe experience. Whether you're looking to stress eat through reading period or your next family political debate, go get yourself a crimson-striped box and eat away your suffering!

Rating: 10/10, would marry?

Clearly, losing my Trader Joe’s virginity was a life changing experience. I have discovered both my passion for holiday Joe-Joe’s and my seething anger for hot chocolate sticks. Overall, I’d say I learned a lot about myself. Now that I’m at home in the middle of the North Carolina mountains where TJ’s is only a glittering memory of my past, I will treasure the moments we spent together, and I’m already counting down the days until we can be reunited<3. I truly don't know how I’m going to survive the holidays without all these snacks. Wow, panic is starting to set in as I type. I’ll just have to depend on our trusty Veritas to get me through.