Tim Horton's was the genesis of my coffee drinking. In my earliest days of imbibing of the "coffee bean" nectar, I ordered the "double double". As my palate matured, I moved to just one cream. Despite the history I have with Tim's, I have since converted to Starbuck's coffee. I realize that Tim's is a national institution, and I admire the way Tim's brings people together to talk. There is always a hum of chatter when I go into a Tim's. People always hold doors open. People are friendly and familiar. For some, Tim's is like Boston's "Cheers" or an old English pub, where "everyone knows your name."
But, I find that the coffee is too bitter. Very few people actually drink Tim's coffee "black"---it seems to need double cream, double sugar... or, I frequently hear, "triple triple".
Starbuck's coffee is, in my humble estimation, the best coffee available. It tastes authentic. Authenticity is hard to come by these days. The only problem with Starbuck's is the associated "snobby" image. I often see people sitting alone, peering into laptop screens, marking papers or reading books. No hum of chattering people, just softly playing jazz music in the background and the occasional squeak of bottoms on plush leather seats. The clientele seems elevated and superior. Not that BMWs can't be seen in Tim's drive-thrus, or that Chevys aren't seen at Starbuck's parking lots... it is just a general impression one gets. Starbuck's is for the elite; Tim's is for the common man. So, even though I prefer the common man venue of Tim's, I have a greater preference for Starbuck's coffee.
To add to the dilemma, however, is McDonald's. Here you will find very inexpensive coffee. In fact, I ordered a huge coffee and a muffin this morning for $1.93 (tax incl.). To make matters worse, the coffee is superb. I am not sure how authentic it is... (with McDonald's, no one can be certain what you are eating or drinking) ...but, it tastes almost as good as Starbuck's coffee.
In addition, the cup is well designed. It has an extra paper layer surrounding the cup, providing insulation for your hand and the coffee is hot to the last drop. My Tim's coffee is always too hot at first and then gets cold near the end. Not so with McDonald's coffee. The lid is large, like Starbuck's lids, but it has a convenient lift-tab over the hole, that actually stays open when you press it back. I find that Tim's lid tabs sometimes fail to stay open. You know what I am talking about. Most embarrassing. Everyone around you acts like an expert because everyone has had a million cups of Tim's coffee in their lifetime and have had relatively few problems. Even so, one in a hundred lids seems to malfunction. Inevitably, I tear the tab off and I am stuck with a sharp plastic bit digging into my lid. McDonald's design, on-the-other-hand, is made for the customer's supreme enjoyment. The high lid also means that your lips press against the rounded drinking hole rather then against the paper cup (a la Tim's). This is usually not a major problem, unless the Tim's employee places the lid opening over the cup-seam. You know what I am talking about. Your lip doesn't seal properly to the cup because of the seam and you dribble coffee on your shirt. Another problem with the Tim's lid is the "overfilled cup." I have spilt coffee on a number of occasions because of overfilled Tim's. This never happens at Mc'D's because of the high lid, and Starbuck's always asks "room for cream?", so they leave appropriate space.
In the end, I make coffee at home more often than not. It is cheaper and porcelain cups make the coffee tastes a whole lot better. I must add that I still go to Tim's occasionally. Canadian identity has a fragile existence, and a coffee shop founded right here in Hamilton by a hockey player is too Canadian to pass up. Besides, the doughnuts are excellent bar-none.