Coffee In Canada: The Good, Bad, & Disgusting

There aren’t a lot of people that don’t like coffee.  When I first arrived in Toronto there was a bit of chaos with riots, earthquakes, and even a G20 meeting (click here for story).  It took me a while to get situated since I was in-between two apartments but I can attest that living in Toronto is amazing.   I was very curious about Canadian culture because most people have the impression that they are an extension of Americans which is very far from the truth.  There are similarities and differences but they do have parts of their own culture that are very unique (my Canadian friends make me say of course).

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons Coffee

Now back to coffee.  This is a good a time as ever to introduce you to Tim Horton’s, the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin Donuts, minus the good coffee.  There are hundreds of these stores around Toronto and rest of Canada.  You can choose from a variety of delicious things to eat but don’t head there for the coffee.  A nice cup of medium mud will cost you about $2 at Tim Horton’s.  One of the things I found weird is that they ask you how many creams and sugars you want instead of you going to the self service table to the side.

I of course thought there wasn’t enough cream or sugar in my coffee so I easily added 4 packets of each, no luck, still mud.  You can roam around Toronto for hours and add great pictures of Canada to your arsenal.  As I was roaming I turned the corner and I saw what I love most about American capitalism, Starbucks.  At that point Tim Horton’s ceased to exist.  I did ask a lot of Canadians about the coffee at Tim Horton’s and two of the most common answers were: “well, I mean its okay its cheap” and “the coffee is disgusting”.

Second Cup

Second Cup Coffee

Eventually I got around to going to the famous Caribana Parade, visiting the Christmas Capital of the world in Ottawa, and even attending the great festivities of Canada’s independence during Canada Day.  As I roamed and continued to explore Canada I found an excellent third option for coffee, Second Cup.  Second Cup is the Canadian version of Starbucks and has delicious coffee!  I’d recommend the caramel latte!

So in conclusion stay away from Tim Horton’s (especially since they only accept cash every time I tried to pay with a credit card), and pay the extra dollar or two for good coffee at Starbucks or Second Cup.


  1. That’s funny, I live in the US and we have Tim Horton’s. I live in Michigan, we are Close to Canadian border so I’m not sure how far south you will find Tim Horton’s but personally I love the coffee. I don’t find it to be Mud at All, haha. Infact, I would go as far as to say I actually prefer it to Star Bucks.

  2. I love Tim Horton’s. It’s not the best coffee for sure, but it’s always a good staple for me. My standard is a medium double double, although I really like their iced coffee as well. Funny enough when I had Dunkin Donuts coffee I thought it was gross. I think it’s what you’re used to.

  3. You are the first person I have ever heard say “I hate Timmy’s”. Friends still send me Timmy care packages, and I’m always afraid Korean customs will steal them! Joking about the stealing part, but seriously, I love Timmy’s. Maybe you need to go to Nova Scotia to get the REA:L Timmy’s 🙂

  4. Hi There,

    I have to give my two cents-worth on your “article”. I consider it a feable attempt to express your opinion in a less than mature manner.

    Personally, I am not a coffee drinker. That said, I enjoy a good cup of tea. I will, at times frequent Tim Hortons when the opportunity arises. Personally, I prefer to brew my own tea, enjoying the flavor of Earl Grey, or Irish Breakfast from Twinings.

    In a pinch, I will go to Tim’s.

    Part of the experince at Tim Hortons is having the coffee made for you so you can grab it and walk. They make mistakes from time to time but will more often than not replace the coffee free of charge if you are not satisfied.

    I find it to be a bit on the annoying side to go into Second Cup, or one of their “equivalents”, and have to add my own cream, milk or sugar. Not to mention, that 3/4 of the time, you either have to use those painfully useless and puny stir sticks that are often 1/2 an inch too short, or curl once they hit the hot liquid. Either that, or I have my pick from about 25 dirty spoons.

    As far as Dunkin’ Donuts… who are they?

    1. Hemmy… thanks for the comment the fact of the matter is that Tim Hortons doesn’t have good coffee. The coffee they serve is atrocious and many Canadians have agreed to that but they still pay for the coffee because its cheap. Dunkin Donuts is the Tim Horton’s equivalent in the United States. Second Cup actually has good coffee which is why I prefer them rather than Tim Hortons…

    2. Dunkin Doughnuts is a chain of doughnut stores that have whst has been deemed the overall most preferred coffee as far as coffee shops go. Stores now sell the ground coffee in Walmart & most grocery stores. It’s not the dark roast of Starbucks. My husband who just passed away last year was like all the other people who preferred McDonald’s coffee and Dunkin Doughnuts coffee to Starbucks. His fav at home was Folgers. Now I’m married to a Canadian & living in Winnipeg. HE hates Tim Horton’s, preferring McDonald’s to it. At home we make some blend Costco sells. We’ll have to get him to try Dunkin D’s coffee on our trip to my hometown & get the kids some doughnut holes from there.

  5. I really beg to differ, Marcello. Frankly, it depends on where you go. I’ve never been to Ontario, so, I have no idea how “atrocious” the coffee is there. My personal favorites are the “Ice Caps” which are not overly creamy, but rather smooth, and great on a hot day. If you ever get the opportunity to come to the Maritime Provinces, try it there. It will likely improve.

    As for Dunkin’ Donuts, I am aware of what the company is. I am Canadian, not American, and would rather support companies that originated in Canada.

  6. Coffee, like just about everything else, is a personal choice. I also prefer one brand to another, but always R-E-S-P-E-C-T someone else’s choice, Canadian or American or…

    1. Feangel… I agree with you but find it funny that most Canadians that I spoke to agreed that it wasn’t good coffee. The only response that I received was they kept going back because the price was good. Most people I know agree that Tim Horton’s isn’t good coffee at all 🙂 The others are quite good however

    2. Please. Canadians have a tendency to say what they think about coffee like everyone else! Even those friendly Manitobans are not always polite about American foods & drinks & other cultural things. Many have expressed how much they hate Tim Horton. It’s coffee, not politics. 🙂

  7. It’s kind of funny. You should introduce me to the Canadians you hang out with because everyone I know is crazy about Tim Horton’s coffee. Myself, I must say, I think their coffee is so-so, bland, nothing exciting. If I have the choice, I prefer Second Cup (another Canadian coffee shop). Here, in Ottawa, we also have Bridgehead which serves very good coffee but a tad expensive.

    Now, if only they’d let us smoke while we enjoy a tasty brew, cause not many cheap pleasures beat a coffee and a cigarette.

    Thanks for sharing!


  8. I just moved to Canada from Australia and the first coffee I had was Tim hortons. It was not even worthy of being called coffee. Hazelnut macchiato at Starbucks all the way!

    1. Jessica, I totally agree with you. I’m from Europe, but I can’t get used to the stuff they claim to be coffee in Canada. Even their ‘flat white’s’ are nothing what Melbourne has to offer. They won’t change a thing here either. I don’t know what it takes to move on from that 1976 ‘Taxi Driver’ mentality.

  9. And I thought i was the only one who HATED tim hortons coffee. Their baked goods are great but their coffee is undrinkable for me. Second cup has the best Canadian coffee.

    1. Woah Den!!! I didn’t know that.. do you know if they are independent or if they are owned by another American brand? It is funny because an American company really would sell coffee that is that bad for that cheap.

  10. I live in vancouver bc and i have never paid more than $2 for coffee. And they have always taken all forms of standard payments. The only let down at most timmys is the service. But the coffee has always been good to be. Coffee is coffee. I highly prefer timmys over starbucks, which is overpriced in my opinion.

  11. Tim Horton was good about 15 years a go… when they starting using frozen donuts and cheaper coffee is when they went down hill.. Timmy’s is for the causal coffee drinker who buys Maxwell House at the grocery store and thinks that tastes good. I suggest to find a locally owned coffee house that you like. at least the money that you spend stays in the community.. The Myth of Tim Hortons having good coffee and donuts is the great brainwash of Canadians..

  12. I think you’re right about the coffee; it’s certainly not the “favourite cup of coffee” that it claims to be. I’ve never been overly impressed with Starbucks coffee either… perhaps I’ve never gotten a fresh cu?. I do think that McDonald’s has pretty good coffee, which is pretty surprising considering I expected it to be worse than Tim Horton’s.

    However, you made a grammatical error that I can’t resist pointing out: “There aren’t a lot of people “that” don’t like coffee”. The “that” should actually be “who”. Hahaha.

  13. Tim hortons coffee tastes like water. I even tried
    It black with no sugar. I had their coffee in stores
    Through out GTA. I did go to a coffee shop called
    Coffee culture and ordered dark coffee and it was
    Perfect. I agree with the earlier post, the masses
    Don’t know taste and think Maxwell coffee at the
    Super market is great.

  14. If you want to drink decent coffee anywhere in Canada you need to avoid the big chain coffee shops.

    Go somewhere they roast there own beans, or actually brew decent coffee.

    I’m in Toronto about every 6 months, and I really have enjoyed places like:

    Pilot Coffee Roasters
    Sense Appeal
    De Mello Palheta
    Moonbeam in (really good if your new to Toronto as it is right in Kensington market)
    Merchants of Green Coffee

  15. i think the appalling coffee served in Canada – I live in Australia – would nearly put me off emigrating! (not that we’re thinking of it). Can’t understand why it isn’t better. IIs it rocket science? It isn’t much cop in the UK either, but streets ahead of N America. But I do really like visiting Canada, coffee aside…

    1. Australia got me hooked on their Flat White’s and Macchiato’s. I can’t go back to what I was used to now. Thanks a lot, lol. Yes, it’s much easier to train a Donkey to cross the road, than it is to train a Canadian to make a decent cuppa coffee. I guess without complains, nothing changes.

  16. I am surprised that you didn’t enjoy Tim Horton’s coffee, it’s certainly stronger than Dunkin Donuts coffee (which to me taste like crap, actually it’s brown water) The line ups to get a Tim Horton’s coffee are almost never ending in the morning hours. These coffee shops are very very lucrative.

    However, we can agree on Starbucks coffee (also know as 4Bucks coffee) This coffee is stronger again and is enjoyed by many all over.

    I like what I have seen so far on your website and am interested in hearing more.

  17. tim horton’s coffee is crap. The only time ,i go there, is to use the wash room, when i can’t wait to get home.
    mc/donalds is better, and a lot cheaper

  18. Someone who says Dunkin donuts has good coffee deserves as much respect as someone who orders a double double at puke hortons.

  19. If you’re ever in Invermere, BC, you need to go to the Kicking Horse Cafe! Only cafe they have, but they sell their coffee in stores across Canada and online. BEST… COFFEE… EVER!

  20. This article is ridiculous. No proper argument is made. Opinionated around a group of snotty business torontonians who think the price of their cup reflects their pallet. As a coffee lover and someone who can consume up to 20 cups of coffee during a normal week, I’d disagree. First off to even have an respectable opinion you need a respectable pallet, compare coffees. As in the bean and roasting flavours, JUST COFFEE IN THE MUG. Don’t bring up lattés and putting 4 creams and 4 sugars in a coffee after what was already in the coffee. Are you kidding me !?!? You discredited your entire argument that Tim Hortons has bad coffee when you didn’t even take a public poll. This is your argument: “oh I know a few people” and “everyone I talked to”…. who are these people ? Your best friend, boss, family members ? Of course there gonna agree with you. I could get over 100 signatures in a single work day from people who would rather get a cup of timmies vs star bucks anyday.

  21. I was desperate for a coffee on a long road trip a month ago. I ordered Tim Horton’s attempt at a dark toast. It tasted like hot water with a handful of dirt in it. I poured it out after choking down a quarter cup and chewed on 2 caffeine tablets instead. The disgusting taste of the tablets was a welcome distraction to the complete lack of flavour Tim Horton’s coffee contains.

    There’s a reason Timmy’s drinkers order double-doubles and triple-triples. They don’t like the taste of coffee, but they do like the taste of hot cream and sugar.

    Please stop calling it Tim Horton’s coffee. It’s not coffee. I drink all coffee black, and Tim Horton’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s all make the same thing. Dark, hot flavourless water. Thus the need for cream and sugar, or some other artificial flavour.

    I say all of this as a born and raised East-coast Canuck where you can’t pin a tail on a donkey without bumping into a Tim Horton’s. Please do yourself a favour and find a local roaster and try them. You may be amazed at what REAL coffee tastes like.

    Personal Favorites:
    Warning: They’re a few thousand k’s apart, but try a few in between.
    1 – Java Blend, Halifax NS
    2 – Oso Negro, Nelson BC

  22. About people disliking Tim Horton’s coffee and preferring Starbucks …. in my small town we have both Tim Hortons and Starbucks …… one half empty Starbucks at the mall and two Tim Hortons so filled with customers that a third outlet is soon opening

    But then again….lol…… the opinions of the people who choose live in Toronto can’t possibly be taken seriously

    1. of course he was. This is a paid tour by Starbucks! The worst coffee ever! Its nicknamed
      BURNT Coffee noted for its poor service and long lines and confusing menu boards. Thats why despite all of its marketing, it remains at the 10% level in terms of coffee places in sales. And this despite Canadians being bigger coffee drinkers than the US.

      Starbucks is of course the preferred $5 dollar latte preference for snobs! And this silly reviewer(paid and bought by Starbucks–do a little digging on him) doesn’t even recognize that within the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver markets alone, that local coffee places outsell even Starbucks!

  23. Have any one of you fellas ever had free coffee at a ranch, hunting camp, working mans meeting room? If you had , I don’t think you would be so prissy about cafe coffee differences. A lot goes into making coffee drinkable including the water that’s used. Most cafes use quality coffee , then they can screw it up.

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