International Conflict: Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks (part 1)

February 13, 2008 at 12:18 am 22 comments

Today I decided to conduct a second experiment as part of an ongoing investigative-series determining what it means to be Canadian. In the first experiment I answered the question about whether or not drinking a six-pack of Molson Canadian made a person feel more Canadian.

It was determined that, no, drinking six bottles of this beer did not make one feel more Canadian. It was a tough experiment that pushed my body and mind to the limit, but it was worth it, scientifically speaking. I plan to re-visit this experiment sometime in the future.

For now, I decided that I would experiment with a different type of liquid; coffee, focusing on the coffee of a national chain, Tim Hortons.

Tim Hortons is, in fact, a poorly disguised cult, akin to Scientology. Whereas Scientology promotes ways to defeat alien entities known as Thetans, Tim Hortons serves us coffee and tasty donuts; the difference between the two is minimal. Word on the street is that ‘Hortonites’ are next on Annonymous’ hit list.

I decided to divide this experiment into two parts. First I would explore the world of Tim Hortons coffee from the purchasing stage to consumption of the beverage. Does the act of buying a Tim Hortons double-double make a person feel more Canadian? Does drinking it affect the Canadianess of a person?

Second, I wanted to compare the most Canadian of coffee to the American counterpart; Starbucks. Which is superior? Should we as Hortonites be worried about this incursion of Starbuckians on our soil? Should we, as Canadians, jihad their ass?

Important questions. Let’s look at what we discovered.

Part 1:

It was snowing while I drove to my local Tim Hortons. This was a nice effect and did indeed add to my feeling of being Canadian. It was cold and blustery, making the roads slightly hazardous. There was still plenty of traffic as Canadians don’t let a little thing like extreme weather stop them from important missions such as going to
Tim Hortons for a coffee.

Tim Hortons was full, as usual. The lineup wasn’t too bad, and by that I mean I only had to stand in the lobby, whereas some days the lineup stretches all the way out the entrance. All the seats were full with Hortonites enjoying their ‘juice from the teats of the gods’, as some locals call it. I have to say that I did feel a little more Canadian just standing there, looking around at all my fellow Canadians; until the person behind me told me to pay attention and move my ass.

After a few minutes I made it to the counter and ordered my double-double. Ordering a ‘double-double’ is a genuine Canadian thing. For those who are ignorant a double-double means ‘two creams and two sugars’. Most Canadians order double-doubles at Tim Hortons, as not doing so is a stupid move; more on that later. Making my order made me feel more Canadian.

With coffee in hand I headed back to my car. For a Hortonite there is nothing more exciting than popping open the flap on the lid of your coffee and savouring that first swig of sugary sweetness. Tim Hortons coffee does have a distinctive taste different from any other brand that I’ve tasted in my travels. This is a truly Canadian coffee-beverage.

I was beginning to burst with Canadian pride from my Tim Hortons experience. Tim Hortons really is a one of a kind, Canadian-only experience. On the surface it’s a donut shop that has morphed itself into a fast-food coffee mecca. In reality it’s a Canadian institution, owned by an American corporation (Wendy’s). What major Canadian corporation today isn’t owned by foreign investors? It’s good to be Canadian.

Analysis of Part 1: This was a genuine Canadian experience. From the first step of driving to Tim Hortons in a snow storm, to being in the temple purchasing a double-double, and finally consuming of the product, I felt a boost to my Canadianity. No other coffee buying experience has quite the same atmosphere as buying a double-double from Timmy’s.

To my fellow Canadians — if you need a boost to your Canadian identity, get yourself to the nearest Tim Hortons, stat!

To non-Canadians — You’re invited too.

Part 2: A look at America, I mean, Starbucks, in The Empire Strikes Back.  I came up with that title all by myself.

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If Canadians Could Vote in the American Election… International Conflict (part 2): The Empire Strikes Back!

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. paulmct  |  February 13, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Sad but true comment about Canadian corporaations being foreign owned. Check this out for more:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/does-canada-lack-ambition/

    You could have used 2nd Cup, which apparently pre-dates StarBucks. And let’s not forget, the founder of Starbucks got his idea from all the coffee shops he would find in Vancouver when he would come up here from Seattle. Another great Canadian idea! (that someone somewhere else got rich from).

    Reply
  • 2. C. Fraser  |  February 13, 2008 at 3:46 am

    Second Cup is good coffee. I think Tim’s is more iconic Canadian, though…and I don’t have a Second Cup within reasonable traveling distance, unfortunately.

    I didn’t know that about the Starbucks’ founder. It makes sense though, since Seattle is so close to Vancouver.

    Reply
  • 3. raincoaster  |  February 13, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Second Cup coffee is nowhere near Starbucks quality, nowhere near Tim Horton’s quality.

    I suppose there’s nothing more sadly Canadian than being foreign-owned.

    I actually know Howard Schultz and worked at Starbucks for seven years here in Vancouver, and that story isn’t true. Seattle’s had a livelier coffee culture than Vancouver for at least thirty years. He got the idea from St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

    But here’s a story that IS true: The powers that be at Starbucks didn’t think there would be money in opening a cafe, so they resisted. He wanted a pilot project, so they let him: on condition it not be in Seattle. He opened the first Starbucks-owned cafe in the Seabus station in Vancouver. It was called Il Giornale, and I was one of the first customers. Once the model had proven itself, they opened the Pike Place store in Seattle under the Starbucks name, and the rest is history.

    Reply
  • 4. C. Fraser  |  February 14, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Thanks for sharing the story. Knowledge is power.

    Reply
  • 5. daranee  |  February 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve actually never tried Tim Horton’s coffee, but Second Cup is decent. I’m a bit picky you know, but then I am an American.

    Not to go on a tangent but as an American, I have a question about The White Spot. I don’t like their hashbrowns and I have a hard time conceiving of anybody who does. They’re white not golden, soft not crispy — in short they bear little resemblance to what I think of as hashbrowns.

    Now I don’t know if that is a country-wide chain, but they’re all over B.C.

    Reply
  • 6. C. Fraser  |  February 14, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    I’ve never heard of ‘The White Spot’ so it must be a regional chain. Hopefully someone from the area can give you an answer.

    Reply
  • 7. paulmct  |  February 15, 2008 at 8:23 am

    As far as I know, they’re just in BC or the west. But, what’s the question? You just said you don’t like their hashbrowns. I’ve never had breakfast there, so I can’t say if that’s typical. Has it happened more than once?

    Is breakfast foods your favourite subject? 😉

    Reply
  • 8. daranee  |  February 19, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    I guess my question is are soft white hashbrowns preferred in Canada to golden crispy ones?

    Food in general is my favorite topic. If you get me started on food, I’ll never stop. On this blog, I’ve commented on canadian bacon, dare maple cookies and now hashbrowns. It’s clearly a theme.

    Reply
  • 9. paulmct  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    As far as I know hashbrowns are supposed to be fried and at least somewhat crispy. I don’t think I’ve ever had soft white ones like you were served. Maybe that’s how White Spot does them. Maybe they were just underdone.

    Reply
  • 10. R,Webb  |  February 21, 2008 at 1:04 am

    I am an American coffee lover. I usually brew my own at home now to get great flavor. Tim Hortons coffee is the finest tasting coffee, period. Starbucks does not come close. It is harsh, bitter and leaves a bad after taste. No contest.

    Reply
  • 11. C. Fraser  |  February 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I disagree about Tim Hortons being the finest tasting coffee. Purchased as a double-double, perhaps, but have you ever tasted Tim Hortons coffee without the cream/sugar? It’s the most wretched thing I’ve ever tasted.

    Reply
  • 12. paulmct  |  February 22, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    I have a fully functional coffee machine at home that makes coffee that tastes good, assuming I put decent coffee into it. Garbage in, garbage out, remember.

    I don’t know why people stop off at Starbucks’s, Tim Horton’s, or anywhere else on their way to work in the morning. Where do you find the time? And, if you can throw money away like that, throw some my way… 😉

    I usually only ever go into a coffee shop in the middle of the day if I have time to kill between other activities or need a blast of energy to keep going. I sometimes prefer individual shops to chains. I don’t really rate Starbucks coffee, but they’re ubiquitous and sometimes the most conveniently located.

    Reply
  • 13. paulmct  |  February 25, 2008 at 6:01 am

    daranee,

    If food is your fav subject, what do you think of this?:

    http://paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/tv-dinners/

    Reply
  • 14. Taz Shaikh  |  January 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    I’m doing an ISU comparing which is better tim hortons or starbucks
    until now i am not being able to find a proper reason as to why one is better than the other
    if anybody has something that can help me
    please leave a comment =)

    Reply
  • 15. C. Fraser  |  January 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    The problem with determining which is better is that it’s impossible. With things like food/beverages, art, music, literature and anything else that is dependent on opinion there is no “Best”. I

    I suppose the closest way to gain what is the “best” would be to poll a significant population for their opinion. Even then, though, there is no right or wrong answer. Best is best on so many variables, such as actual taste, culture, commercials etc, etc

    Even with myself whether I prefer Timmy’s or Starbucks depends on my mood.

    And I don’t even know what an ISU is…:)

    Good luck, though.

    Reply
  • 16. N SAWCHUK  |  February 12, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    As an educator it is always interesting to read and compare what is being said about these coffee giants.

    My international students who are not great coffe drinkers find all of these articles interesting and informative.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • 17. C. Fraser  |  February 13, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for your comment, N. Sawchuck. I’m glad I can be of service to the body of international students!

    I hope it’s understood that these posts are very tongue-in-cheek/satire/sarcasm oriented. Other than that give your students my best!

    Reply
  • […] International Conflict: Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks (part 1) […]

    Reply
  • 19. David  |  June 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I think it’s totally pathetic that you burst with national pride upon going to Tim Horton’s. Give me a break, it’s a generic little coffee house. A national institution? You only think that because that’s how Tim’s markets itself, and fools like you buy in. Canadians are desperate for national icons (especially experiences that are exclusive to us), but there is nothing special about Tim Horton’s sorry, I’ll take a Starbucks anyday.

    Reply
    • 20. C. Fraser  |  June 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      Apparently you missed the point.

      Reply
  • 21. Matt  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I would like to share my love of Tim Hortons (Timmy Ho’s) with you. I am from Buffalo, NY and there is no better place to get coffee than Timmy Ho’s. I personnaly think Starbucks is shit with their faggy flovors. I would take a Double-Double over a Frappacino any day. I live in Germany now and we have a place that sells “Starbucks Coffee” but everytime I go home the first and last place I stop at is Tim Hortons. Drinking it makes me feel more like a Buffalonian, especially on a snowy day or on the way to ski country to go snowboarding. The next time I will be tasting that hot cup of deliciousness will be in January and I can’t wait!

    Reply
  • 22. Jesus Ochoa  |  December 27, 2011 at 10:10 am

    im from Monterrey, Mexico. Remember 1st trip to Canada, frezzing temperature at Montreal and looking for a place to lunch. my Wife and I found Tim Hortons near Notre-Dame Basilica, she was looking for a soup I order a coffe, one of the best selections that day. Here in Monterrey have a lot of starbucks coffe shops, but we remember pleasantly that tim hortons visit. Definitely will stop at Tim Hortons next time we visit Canada.

    Reply

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