Coffee Facts

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons

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If you love coffee, you’ve probably stopped at a Starbucks or Tim Hortons at some point. These massive, multinational chains offer premium coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and other specialty food items. They are convenient and affordable, making them worldwide favorites. But how do they compare? Keep reading to find out who wins in the Starbucks vs Tim Hortons debate.

starbucks vs tim hortons

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Starbucks Overview

Starbucks is known for many things: its specialty drinks, secret menu, and iconic place in American pop culture history. This coffeehouse exists in 83 countries around the world, with 32,660 stores

History of Starbucks

Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl founded Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle, Washington, in the United States. It began as a coffee bean retailer and had minor success until the group sold the joint venture to Howard Schultz in 1987.

Schultz rebranded his existing coffee outlets with the Starbucks name to grow the company around the American Mid- and Northwest. It sold ready-to-go coffee and just kept growing. 

As Starbucks expanded, it began buying out other coffee retailers to sell specialty drinks like Frappuccinos. Stores opened up worldwide, providing free WiFi, rewards programs, plant-based milk, flavored syrups, tea, and meals.

Benefits of Starbucks

The coffee establishment offers an authentic coffee experience with countless drink options. You can order one of the advertised drinks or explore the secret menu to make plenty of unique beverages.

They accommodate plant-based, ketogenic, low-calorie, and diabetic diets through their dairy and sweetener alternatives. You’ll find tea, soda, juices, smoothies, and even alcoholic beverages at some locations.

If you’re hungry, you can explore Starbucks sandwiches and pastries. They do not have the most comprehensive selection, but they accommodate most diets.

Starbucks sources its coffee ethically and sustainably to support small farmers. They sell high-quality grounds in-store and online. If you want a delicious cup of joe brewed at home, you can count on Starbucks.

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Also, Starbucks treats their part- and full-time employees (or partners) reasonably well. Eligible employees receive benefits like:

  • Health coverage
  • 401(k)s
  • Paid and parental leave
  • 100% tuition coverage
  • Discounts
  • Free Spotify

Reasons You Should Choose Starbucks

If you buy from Starbucks, you know that you are supporting one of the more ethical restaurant chains. They help small farmers, treat their employees well, and are working to build a carbon-neutral future.

Also, you can choose from a wide variety of delicious drinks. Whether you like cotton candy cappuccinos or cinnamon bun lattes, you can order them at Starbucks. They also try to fit most customers’ dietary needs.

Downsides of Starbucks

Starbucks has tons of advantages, but they are known for their steep prices. They deliver quality products, but they will take a decent chunk out of your pocket.

Depending on your income, you might have to treat Starbucks like an occasional treat. Their coffee grounds also cost a pretty penny.

If you like to snack at your coffee shop, Starbucks has limited options. You will struggle to find diverse sandwich choices as they focus on their coffee.

Tim Hortons Overview

Tim Hortons is a Canadian classic that lacks the same global popularity as Starbucks. Nevertheless, you can visit one of its 4,846 locations in 14 countries.

History of Tim Hortons

Tim Horton and Jim Charade founded Tim Hortons in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario. It began as a coffee and donut shop. In 1965, Ron Joyce gained control of the first location and started opening more stores, securing him as Horton’s partner.

When Tim Horton died in 1974, Joyce became the sole owner of the chain and rapidly expanded it. Suddenly, Tim Hortons had restaurants worldwide with tons of new products.

Tim Hortons became the best-selling fast food restaurant in Canada by 2002. While the vast majority of its locations are in Canada, you can find plenty of shops in upstate New York and other American cities.

Benefits of Tim Hortons

Initially, Tim Hortons only sold coffee and donuts. In time, it expanded its drink offerings to include hot chocolate, tea, soda, espresso, lattes, lemonade, frozen drinks, and flavored syrups.

Bakery-wise, you’ll find a diverse menu of bagels, donuts, muffins, biscuits, croissants, danishes, cookies, cakes, and rolls. They also have breakfast sandwiches, wraps, soups, poutine, subs, and chili.

Basically, you can now eat all of your meals at Tim Hortons and enjoy some tasty, affordable, hot, and cold beverages. While prices vary, you will definitely save money by shopping at Tim Hortons compared to Starbucks.

The Tim Hortons Coffee Partnership works with farming communities in Honduras, Brazil, Guatemala, and Colombia to improve their businesses.

As far as employee benefits go, it depends greatly on the location. Some employees will receive perks like:

  • Paid leave
  • Discounts
  • Health coverage
  • 401(k)s
  • Flexible hours

Those who get healthcare packages enjoy their quality.

Lastly, Tim Hortons is an affordable Canadian coffee house. You can get a ton of food for a low price because of its fast-food nature. They recently began offering plant-based milk, but they got rid of their Beyond meat sandwiches.

Reasons You Should Choose Tim Hortons

You should choose Tim Hortons if you like to have a ton of food options. You can get your food fast and cheaply. Also, many locations are combined with Burger King, expanding your food choices further.

Downsides of Tim Hortons

One of the most significant downsides to Tim Hortons is their poor employee treatment. Many locations have cut employee benefits to minimize costs.

You cannot customize your drinks since they have fewer flavored syrups. Also, they have fewer options for people with specific dietary needs.

The quality of the drinks depends on your taste. Some find their cheaper coffee comparable to Starbucks, but most will find it lacking. However, you get what you pay for. You can save a lot of money at Tim Hortons for lower-quality coffee.

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Showdown

Now that we’ve made an overall comparison of Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons let’s compare some of their take-home products.

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Coffee Grounds

To begin, let’s look at the coffee grounds sold by Starbucks and Tim Hortons.


Starbucks sells plain and flavored coffee grounds from their Coffee at Home website. You can find standard and seasonal flavors along with their blonde, medium, and dark roasts. They also offer decaffeinated coffee and sell grounds, K-cups, and whole beans.

The flavored coffees lack the same strength as the in-store options since they do not have a fresh shot of syrup. However, they do give you a similar taste. Most of the plain coffees compare to the in-store varieties well.

Things We Like:
  • Tons of options for flavors and strengths
  • Wide availability online and in grocery stores
  • You can mix and match multiple flavors
Things We Don’t Like:
  • The flavors lack the strength of the in-store options
  • The coffee bean prices. They are expensive.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons sells original blend, dark roast, decaf, and vanilla coffee as fine grounds and K-cups. You can get whole beans as well. They are affordable and delicious. Also, the at-home varieties taste just like the in-store ones when brewed correctly. 

This statement does not hold for K-cups, but that’s because many K-cup pods lack the number of grounds you would typically use in a drip coffee maker.

Things We Like:
  • Great taste at an affordable price
  • Wide availability online and in grocery stores
Things We Don’t Like:
  • They do not have many flavor options

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Instant Beverages

Starbucks and Tim Hortons have instant, powdered beverages that you mix with hot water or milk for a yummy treat.


If you like instant or easy-to-make beverages, Starbucks offers lattes, coffee, hot chocolate, and refreshers. Their instant lattes tend to have excessive sugar and do not always mix well.

Also, you need to drink it fast to avoid a gritty texture. The coffee blend tastes like their regular grounds.

The hot chocolate tastes like most hot chocolates, and the refreshers give you a fruity caffeine boost. Most of these products have a mix of stevia and sugar, so you may not like them if you don’t enjoy using both of these sweeteners.

Things We Like:
  • Convenient to use
  • More affordable than a trip to Starbucks
Things We Don’t Like:
  • Instead of regular and sugar-free options, they have middle-of-the-road drinks with sugar and stevia that have an overly sweet flavor
  • They tend to get gritty

Tim Hortons

You can get powdered varieties of three Tim Hortons classic drinks: French Vanilla, English Toffee, and Hot Chocolate. You’ll need more powder to get the same flavor as you would in-store, reducing the number of drinks you can make.

However, they all give you a delicious taste comparable to the Tim Hortons restaurant. You won’t find as many options like Starbucks, but they have a more standardized quality.

Things We Like:
  • The flavor tastes just like the in-store options
  • Convenient to use
  • Affordable and accessible
Things We Don’t Like:
  • Less variety
  • Each carton makes fewer beverages than it suggests

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Other Options

Finally, let’s look at some of the other items sold by Starbucks and Tim Hortons.


You can buy cold brew concentrates, Nespresso pods, non-dairy and dairy creamer, and fresh brews. The cold brew lets you enjoy an iced coffee without the work, and it tastes great.

The Nespresso pods give you espresso and coffee. They are stronger than the K-cups pods as well.

Whatever your diet, you can find a flavored creamer that boosts coffee. They are creamy and of the perfect thickness. Lastly, the fresh brews give you a single serving of sealed grounds that you can take to work for a fresh cup of coffee.

Things We Like:
  • Wide variety of flavors and options
  • Accommodate most diets and lifestyles
  • Taste similar to the restaurant varieties
Things We Don’t Like:
  • Some of the creamers do not have a strong flavor

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons sells many tea flavors: chai, peppermint, green, Earl Grey, honey lemon, chamomile, apple cinnamon, and English breakfast. They come as teabags.

But that’s it. No creamers, Timbits, or cold brews. Just tea.

Things We Like:
  • You can choose between a bunch of tea flavors
  • They are affordable and come in high-volume boxes
Things We Don’t Like:
  • They could use some more take-home products

Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: Recap

In the debate of Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons, we think Starbucks wins. You get more high-quality coffee options from ethical sources. We’re major coffee lovers here at Roasty Coffee, so we will always choose the better brews.

However, Tim Hortons provides delicious, affordable coffee and meals. Their take-home instant beverages surpass Starbucks’s in quality, and their other items are tasty, too.

Happy Caffeinating!

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