The Great (Coffee) Debate

28 06 2010

Since it was morning when I began writing this, I thought it would be the perfect time to percolate (pun intended…I know, that was bad) over the various java choices that exist for the general coffee-drinking public.  I also thought this would be a nice introductory post for the Fritic blog since coffee is certainly debatable yet doesn’t create quite as much of a stir as say, wine – my other favourite beverage.

We all know that Tim Horton’s rules the roost in Canada, and I have to admit that once upon a time, their coffee was quite delicious.  Regrettably, in the past few years it has reminded me of stale cigarette water.  Don’t ask me what cigarette water is, let alone if I have tasted it, but for some reason the once comforting brown paper cup with red lettering wafted freshly brewed goodness and now makes me want to wretch.  As a result, I have been on an extended mission to locate another source of easily accessible yet affordable coffee.

Since I just mentioned the affordability aspect, I guess that knocks Starbucks out of the stratosphere but if you are yearning to splurge on a ridiculously priced cuppa joe, this is definitely the place to go.  I have learned to deal with what seems to be the overtly strong flavour of their beans by training my palate to accept the taste of “real” coffee.  Let’s be honest, if you’re going from at-home instant or Tim’s, a cup of Bold is going to be a shock but I guess if you live in rainy Seattle a strong cup is a must.  Yes the prices are ridiculous, yes the wording is confusing, and yes the atmosphere reeks of yuppies but there is so much variety and fantastic customer service in these little shops that sometimes I don’t mind handing over $10 for a coffee and an espresso brownie – I just try not to cringe in front of the Baristas.  (Side note: it’s espresso, NOT expresso).

Another option is Williams Fresh Café (once known as Williams Coffee Pub) which started out small in London, Ontario but has recently hopped onto the franchise train.  I think Williams is a worthy competitor when it comes to basic coffee.  Their coffee is usually very fresh and hot hot hot so you can drink it for much longer than the average cup.  Personally, I highly dislike cold coffee unless it is specifically fashioned to be served cold; as a result, this is a big selling factor for me.  Prices are the same as at Tim’s even though Williams appears to be more upscale.  They also have emptier drive-throughs (yay!) and a nearly endless supply of booths for long conversations as well as nearly free internet.  The thing that irks me about Williams is that they have no small cups.  The only options are medium to extra large and quite frankly, I wish they offered more flexibility in the size department.  For those who are likely to point out that Starbucks only offers mediums (pardon me, talls)  you will be happy to know that they have a secret size of cup…it’s called “short”.

I know many of you will staunchly refute my next point (and some of you may find your jaws hanging open from disbelief) but McDonald’s coffee has been kicking some serious butt lately.  What can I say, a nifty marketing campaign started it all back in March of this year when for two weeks, Ronald’s house of gluttony decided to give out free coffee to anyone and everyone who asked.  Their new division, called McCafe, is attempting to compete with other coffee giants and so far it seems to be working – at least a little bit.  This is not to say that my first thought when seeking out a specialty cup of coffee will be McDonald’s, but when it’s Monday morning and you’re feeling sort of like Garfield (who despised Mondays for you young ‘uns) the Golden Arches may be a very wise option.  Their small coffee is the size of a medium everywhere else (I can’t say that’s a surprise) but if you happen to stumble across an employee who knows what they’re doing you could be in for a very pleasant surprise.  Besides, who can resist an Egg McMuffin? 

Mermaid or clown? You decide.

Honourable mentions include Coffee Time (similar to Tim’s but can sometimes be surprisingly better) and Dunkin Donuts (if you’re in the U.S. of A).  And don’t forget those local spots with real espresso machines and the tiny espresso cups…they usually know what they’re doing.   

The hunt continues!

(image courtesy of