This video shows the correct way to Roll Up the Rim to Win – Tim Horton’s Coffee Contest.
This video shows the correct way to Roll Up the Rim to Win – Tim Horton’s Coffee Contest.
Starbucks is the world’s top coffee retailer with over 19,500 stores in 58 countries. Canada ranks second to the US in the number of stores (over 12,800 in the United States compared to over 1,245 locations in Canada). Japan, Great Britain, China and South Korea round out the top 6, all under 1000 locations. But you cannot really trust these numbers because Starbucks are opening nearly 5 new stores everyday. Starbucks recently held a contest for Canadians to help name their new Starbucks Blonde Roast coffees, which are best described as their lighter roast with a subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious. I liken it to a roast which gently awakens the senses – the more you enjoy your cup, the more flavour you detect.When they first launched the Starbucks Blonde Roast, I immediately picked up the VIA instant packets and was shocked by the lack of flavour from the first sip. Used to strong coffee I had added way too much cream and sugar and it drowned out the mellow flavour of this mild roast and once I learned to be gentle with this Blonde, I began to notice the subtle flavours and it has become my go to roast.
So of course I wanted to enter the contest to create the name for the Blonde Roast and in doing so, I found some interesting facts about Starbucks I felt compelled to share.
So, here are the 13 Most Interesting Facts About Starbucks, then the details about the contest …
13. Starbucks currently employs over 137,000 employees, which may not seem like a lot, however this is twice the population of Greenland.
11. There are currently over 87,000 drink possibilities – a free drink to anyone who can name all 87,000.
10. There is a size called the ”Trenta” which is 30oz / 916 ml or slightly bigger than the capacity of your stomach which on average has a capacity of 900 ml.
9. A Starbucks grande coffee has 320 mg of caffeine which surprisingly contains over four times more caffeine than found in a Red Bull energy drink.
8. The Starbucks cinnamon chip scone has more calories than a McDonald’s quarter pounder with 480 calories.
7. Starbucks uses 2.3 billion paper cups per year.
6. They currently serve 40 million customers a week.
5. The owners almost went with the name Pequod, the name of the boat in Moby Dick, instead of the character Starbucks’ name
4. After tasting the Clover at a small café in New York and claiming it the best cup of brewed coffee he has ever tasted, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to buy the company that made Clover in 2008 and began introducing the dream machine at select stores around the country
3. Most Starbucks stores have been equipped Swiss-made Mastrena, which was created to make “the highest-quality, consistent shot of espresso”. The machine also allows baristas to interact with customers due to it’s size and shape.
2. My first choices for the new name were “Mellow Yellow”, “Platinum Blonde” named after the great Canadian band, “Ambition”, “Natural Blonde” and the “Have More Fun” Roast. These have all been entered in the contest.
1. The first Starbucks location to open in Canada was at the Seabus Skytrain Station in Vancouver on March 1, 1987. This humble store was Starbucks Coffee’s first international location. My last suggestion was to honour that location with the “Seabus Light Roast Blend.”
On February 20th, Starbucks Canada will announce the 3 finalists and open up the voting. What was your name for the Blonde Roast?
Before we get into the 2012 list, I would like to recap the 2011 rankings. Those rankings were based on the following criteria;
4. Other intangibles, such as snacks and food available, payment options, if the lids leak and other additional perks.
Urban Daddy’s 2011 rankings:
1. Java Joe’s
2. Tim Horton’s
4. Coffee Time
6. Second Cup
7. Tim Horton’s US
8. Country Style
9. Dunkin Donuts
10. Seattle’s Best Coffee
The 2012 Urban Daddy Official Coffee Rankings:
1. Java Joe’s
3. Tim Horton’s
8. Country Style
9. Second cup
10. Coffee Time
How were these rankings calculated?
Drinking a lot of coffee during many different times of the day and in various locations gives me a feel for how the coffee tastes when it’s at its freshest, and when it’s served during a low-traffic period. I love coffee and I know my coffee. I even checked online to see if there was a registered coffee expert designation, and there was not (if there is, please let me know, not a barista one though) so I am designating myself a CCDE. A Canadian Coffee Drinking Expert.
I base my rankings on many different criteria, such as; value, taste, freshness, quality, the curb appeal of the locations, the cup and lid, the variety of coffees available and variety of other foods in the locations.
1. Java Joe’s - Based on all these criteria, Java Joe’s is the hands down winner again this year. Last year I commented on some of their outstanding flavours such as; Cinnamon Hazelnut, Jamaica Me Crazy, Raspberry Chocolate, Banana Cream, Caramel, and even their Irish Cream – and I detest Irish Cream – little did I know there were more flavours, better flavours still to come such as Blueberry Pie and Maple Cream. All these flavours are stong in scent and strong in flavour. There is no mistaking the flavour and quality of beans when you pick up a cup of their coffee and this is not a case of a great smelling coffee with little or no flavour or strong-smelling coffee with a strong bitter taste.
I can’t say that I have ever had a poor cup of coffee here, unlike all the others.
Even the regular coffees they sell have some great flavour to them. I go to a Java Joe’s, or brew on at home, when I want a fantastic cup of coffee full of flavour and body. When I just want a coffee that I can savor I put no price on that. In addition, their containers that they use to hold their brewed coffee keeps the coffee hot and does not water it down (from condensation) nor does it cause the coffee to continue brewing and therefore get bitter.
They also have a wide variety of food (sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads) which are fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. They have a wonderful selection of organic teas, cold iced drinks plus the full range of hot drinks like the latte, Americano, mochaccino and cappuccino.
The staff are great and their locations have, WiFi and a flat screen TV which you can watch while sitting next to the built-in fireplace. Eat-in or eat-out. Don’t forget the catering. All of this makes Java Joe’s #1 on my 2012 rankings.
They do need a better social presence, however. Especially to let their clientele know which yummy soups or flavoured coffees they have that day.
2. McDonald’s - @McD_Canada. McDonald’s came a long way this year and from what I hear, true or not, it is because they changed their beans to the beans formerly used by Tim Horton’s. Where else can you get a large coffee and a muffin for $1.88? And while we all know the variety of products available in a McDonald’s they get top marks for adding items which are health-conscious and tasty.
The only hiccup here is that I have found quite a few of their cups have an uneven seam meaning the coffee dribbles down the side of the cup and onto my hand or in my car when it splashes side to side. As well, to get that last drop, you must remove the lid. I have had some very questionable large double doubles, more than with most coffee shops but I have also noticed the locations I have gone to for my morning coffee have been VERY busy and it’s bound to happen. But the flavour of the coffee stands out and it has a mellow aftertaste with a solid coffee taste. A very pleasurable cup of coffee.
The public relations team at McDonald’s are fantastic and if you comment on Twitter you get a prompt response.
3. Tim Horton’s – Timmy’s comes in at #3 this year for a couple of reasons. First of all I have found they are became quite inconsistent – a cup of coffee at one location will not taste the same as one in another location and it also varies during the time of day usually based on who is making it once the new sizing came in.
Yes, their addition of oatmeal gives them top marks – but you have to order it with just berries – no brown sugar powder – otherwise it’s not healthy at all, and I found they put in the sugar powder whether you ask for it or not. I do like the 3 new bagel flavours at Tim Hortons, however a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese still gets top marks for me with my large double double. I have been a little gun-shy about eating the chili there ever since a colleague of mine and myself got sick eating it one lunch. The rest of the food is great. I know they are ramping up their food menu to compete with McDonalds and so they should! They can compete. It’s Timmy’s.
A visit there won’t break the bank, and in some areas they seem to be on every block. Yes, there are some concerns around whether or not they actually stir the coffee when they serve it and this was magnified with the addition of the new sizes. Try a longer spoon!
4. Neighbours – It was one of my blogging community, The Green Eyed Girl, who sent me a message after last year’s rankings asking me to try Neighbours which I had never heard of. Boy, am I glad that I did. Their coffee is fantastic! I tried their mild, medium and bold and in each case I found a wonderful smelling coffee, rich in flavour and full of coffee taste. Also in containers which prevents bitterness or over-brewing, I found the best part about Neighbours coffee is that you can choose to add a liquid coffee sweetener instead of cream and sugar which means I can add a vanilla hazelnut shot and not need sugar. It’s just as good as getting a flavoured coffee.
I drive out of my way on the weekends to get a Neighbours coffee as there is no Java Joes anywhere near me, and the Tim’s and McD’s closest have no parking. That’s how good their coffee is.
5. Starbucks – Starbucks while pricey, and known for serving very strong coffee come in this year at number 5, down from number 3 because the drinks they have added all have a lot of fat and calories and their selection of snacks also are on the smallish side and not the kind of treats you bring back to the office. Their blonde coffee – as mild as a coffee can get – barely taste’s of coffee and their oatmeal – which I believe they call the “Perfect Cup” was less than half full and lumpy. It was disappointing.
On the bright side, their Cafe Americano’s are fantastic, but have gone way up in price over the past 5 years. I read that if you have a Starbucks card, and wish to have a flavour pump in your coffee that it is free, but I often get charged it and for the $0.35 cents, I am not going to argue. At Starbucks, customer service is king. If there is something wrong with your drink, or an unusually long delay, they bring out the free drink coupon. In the land of S’Bux, you get what you pay for. I feel good going into my local Starbucks, even walking through the streets with a cup. It’s a status symbol.
I posted their secret menu a couple of months ago on my blog, and have yet to try any of the interesting flavour combinations suggested on it. The secret menu is cool and is part of their mystique.
6. Aroma - The Aroma Espresso Bar, fairly new to the Canadian scene (first store opened in Toronto in 2007, second one in Thornhill in 2009), has been turning heads and making progress in the Canadian market, considering the relative youth of the brand. Founded in Israel in 1994, they focus on premium coffee, fresh delicious salads, a large variety of healthy sandwiches, competitive prices, contemporary decor, and devoted service. The Aroma chain serves more than 25 million customers a year and boasts over 150 Aroma Espresso Bar branches worldwide.
My first experience of Aroma coffee was at the Thornhill location it was not a good one. Not realizing that their bread and butter is their gourmet coffee which meant I needed 4 creams and 6 sugars to even out the strength of the coffee. All subsequent visits have been much better and I’ve come to appreciate the surprisingly strong, rich coffee smell and flavour without any bitterness. Next up, is to try an Americano.
7. Timothy’s - Still hit and miss, Timothy’s is the closest coffee shop to my house but unless I am craving a flavour I tend to go elsewhere. I still find their regular coffee’s have a funny, bitter aftertaste to them and that could be because every time I go in the pot has been sitting for a long time which means either watered down or very strong and bitter from being old. As I mentioned in previous rankings, the good thing about Timothy’s flavours is that they tend to mask old, stale coffee. I have a bag of ground Raspberry Chocolate beans in my house and if I knew they had any of, Toasted Coconut, Raspberry Chocolate or Cinnamon Hazelnut I would go for them. Totally worth the trip.
Like Java Joe’s, my local Timothy’s should set up a Twitter feed so I can check their coffee flavours in the morning. They also need to revamp their food selections as they look average and where they are positioned in the store they look like an after thought.
I have always felt that since Timothy’s promotes itself as ”Coffee’s of the World” that they seek out and bring in some really different, distinct coffees to add to their regular host of culprit’s in order to bring in a different crowd too. Maybe make them a premium blend… I know its hard to control how long a pot has been on – it’s always fresh when I ask, but once I taste it and find otherwise, I keep away for a while wondering if it would have been better for them had the staffer just said it was old and offered me a different drink or another option.
Also in need of a Twitter account!
8. Country Style - I have a love / hate relationship with Country Style and it’s that I want to love their coffee and I hate that it’s so unpredictable from store to store, and not just the flavour of the coffee but also what constitutes a double double in one location is not the same as another. It’s frustrating because their food is incredible. I took an entire week to try their menu at breakfast and lunch time and was very surprised with the variety, flavour and healthiness of their food. If only they could pull a McDonald’s and get different beans or make their sugar / cream dispensers the same as Tim Horton’s or just leave it for us to add like Starbucks. Something has to give!
Country Style is the place to go for breakfast and lunch if you are looking for fresh, flavour and healthy. They are very underrated in this area. They also have a wonderful social media presence and as a Canadian company I hope they can make their coffee work better to compliment their food. They deserve more traffic.
9. The Second Cup – Second Cup comes in at number 9 because I think they have an identity crisis. Their not so great coffee with limited flavours does not warrant the Starbucks treatment – high prices, high-end food. At least at Starbucks, the customer is always right. At the Second Cup locations I have visited during the year, some locations are fantastic, but some give you the glare when you start to ask questions about the freshness of the coffee or ask them to make a “perfect cup” as advertised.
In addition, their best flavours are rarely out, instead they insist on serving Irish Cream as a flavour citing the fact that it’s “popular”. Yes, it’s popular because the regular coffee is usually bitter and people want a flavoured coffee. They take it in spite. I have a bag of ground Butter Pecan and Caramelo beans in my house and without fail when I serve it to guests someone will comment that they do not understand why The Second Cup does not have these in regular rotation. Tell me about it.
The Second cup, or Les cafés Second Cup in Quebec – claim to be Canada’s largest coffee chain, yet nothing in their stores scream Canadian to me. This would be a great area to focus in instead of international expansion – to strengthen the local brand, bring in more Canadian flavours and figure out why I need 4-6 sugars to make my large coffee drinkable. Right now, sadly, my worst fear is walking into a Second Cup location and having to drink one of their regular coffee flavours, like the mild, Paradiso medium or bold. It’s disappointing considering their cold drink menu is often expanding and fantastic on taste and price. Even their food has come a long way, but the coffee… Not so good.
The Second Cup also does not take advantage of is the space they have in most of their shops which they could totally utilize to capitalize on families by offering a safe environment for kids and snacks under 5000 calories – something healthy. Anything healthy? Right now if I take my kids into a Second Cup location to buy a Frozen Hot Chocolate for my wife I can choose from a cookie, muffin or a rice crispy treat which I hate feeding to my children on the best of days.
Seriously, a place for parents to take their kids after dinner to hang out and buy healthy treats might save a few locations… Better than being empty, or having bodies in their nursing a drink while using their wi-fi, eh?
10. Coffee Time – Coffee Time actually has pretty good coffee with surprisingly nice flavor however the coffee must be consumed when freshly made because Coffee Time still uses the pot directly on the burner brewing so the coffee stays hot but it gets stale really quickly. They also have some very interesting treats which are not outstanding – they look like they have been brought into the location, not made there, and they really do not look healthy in the least, but if you are hungry and looking for a snack that won’t break the bank, you can eat there.
I have to admit that I have walked in to a Coffee Time because I feel sorry their locations are so empty. I have a couple 24 hour locations in my neighbourhood and there are some pretty scary people hanging around these locations. Clearly targeting the lower-income market, this Canadian chain has to realize that cheaper coffee prices doesn’t mean they can scrimp on variety, selection, taste, freshness or cleanliness.
There has to be a happy medium between promoting their brand to their clients and competing with the big boys. I have often wondered if they pulled a no frills approach by offering plain cups, less fancy but large tasty treats and a more bread and butter environment they might fill that void and do quite well. Did any of you know that Coffee Time supports over 175 charities including;
This could be Canada’s community donut restaurant much in the same way Tim Horton’s started out.
11. Seattle’s Best Coffee – Seattle’s Best comes in at number 11 this year because now that they are popping up in Canada in Mac’s Convenience locations, I have had the opportunity to try them more often and was able to provide my thoughts. I was disappointed because I think the name – Seattle’s Best – makes me think that they are as good, or better than that other Seattle brand of coffee, Starbucks, but I can now confirm they are not Seattle’s best at all. I thought maybe they needed to have their own locations but unlike Neighbours which are in Petro Canada gas stations and is delicious, I confirmed that the machines in the Mac’s stores are the same ones used to brew Seattle’s Best elsewhere.
The coffee itself remained an anomaly to me even after having 5 cups of it. It required a LOT of sugar and a LOT of cream. In addition, I usually get through half a cup before trashing it, and I even made the last pot myself at the local Mac’s when there was a huge line-up. The coffee packet smelled okay, but came out of the machine very bland and very disappointing. Something must be missing here…
So what are your thoughts on this years’ rankings?
Where do you get your perfect cup from and which shop won’t be getting your business?
I update the about me section of this blog and thought it might be time to post it in order to answer questions I frequently get sent to me via email and twitter. Who I am and what I do…
I am the urban daddy because my wife of 11 years who got me into blogging in 2004 was calling herself the urban mummy. It only made sense.
I am a father of two boys, Linus (because he carries around a security blanket and a white stuffed cat which is my avatar) who is 7 and Stewie (because we feel he’s trying to kill us) who is 5. Our baby girl, Berry (who makes us laugh) is 2-years-old. We live in mid-town urban Toronto where we live our lives as a laid back, no fuss family. We eat healthy (my wife was a vegetarian for 12 years when I met and converted her – but she has recently returned to the land of veggies). She is studying to be a holistic nutritionist.
Both her and I have our Master’s degrees, her in education, me a MBA which we completed with newborns preventing us from sleeping. Crazy, eh?
I love politics, especially Canadian, and have fundraised for Councillor Karen Stintz and was approached by the Conservative Party to run municipally or provincially in my riding. I would have, except I love my job as a taxation executive.
I’m also a sports junkie, love playing ball hockey (21 years in organized league play), and watching it on TV. I also love wrestling and Star Wars so my nerd side gets equal jock play too.
I have always been on the slightly more than I should weigh side, gained that with Linus’ birth and have yet to shed it. Yes, it’s my pregnancy weight! I have been described as being freakishly strong and can run 5K in my sleep, now.
I’ve been blogging since 2004 and have made some year-end award lists, been mentioned by CBS news, asked to be on a local Canadian TV show as their daddy blogger expert and been ripped for my views by some really great people and some real jerks. My views. My opinions.
You’ll find a lot of posts about my kids, about politics, coffee, Toronto, sports, pop culture, current events and things I endorse for free, and things I think people should steer clear of.
Everything here comes out of my head and this blog is meant to allow me to empty my head of thoughts and opinions and if you choose to read and like it or if you find something offensive let me know. Just nothing personal, racist or rude. I can delete them… And block you.
I also blog for money, but I won’t ask, it’s a bonus and not the reason I blog. If you want an expert opinion, or a family opinion on a wide range of things, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a large pool of contacts and connections who can assist too. I’m on twitter @urbandaddyblog and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Urban-Daddy/109554365740659?ref=ts . Find me, drop me a note, like me, vote for me… All that jazz!
Those who do not call me “Daddy” or “Urban Daddy” call me Warren, but as Linus liked to tell his teacher when we have to meet with her / him, “His name is Warren but they call him the urban daddy”.
Read on… You might actually like something here…
I took the Country Style Challenge last week and boy was I surprised. My opinion of Country Style changed dramatically and I would like to explain why.
I’m going to begin by explaining what prompted me to take this challenge, then what the challenge entailed and finally my thoughts and observations.
I took this challenge because I like to rank the best coffee shops in my world and in doing so, I ranked Country Style 8 out of 11 based on three experiences at a location near my office. I had tried the coffee and a cold drink and left unimpressed. After posting my thoughts, the kind folks at Country Style found my ranking and immediately commented that they too were disappointed with my ranking. Since Country Style is a Canadian Company involved with the Make a Wish Fund and Toronto Rock, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt so I pledged to go into a variety of their locations for a week and try everything and anything and see how I felt after that week… Then post my comments on my blog
Here are my findings;
Day 1 – Coffee at 5pm from the Country Style location on Dufferin St just north of Eglinton Avenue. This location is quite large, however set back a little bit so when you are driving south on Dufferin, by the time you see it, you have passed it. It’s a drive through so I made a u-turn and went back for it.
I ordered a large, two-cream, two-sugar (I thought double double was a Tim’s expression only) and the coffee I got was a little bit too sweet for my liking but tasted very nice. As a matter of fact, while I was laying in bed at 2am, wide awake, I could appreciate how good a cup of coffee that was since coffee normally puts me to sleep.
Day 2 – Breakfast at the Country Style location on East Beaver Creek Road in Richmond Hill (very close to my office). I walked into this location again and I immediately remembered the confusion that I had last time I was here. The counter is right in front, about 4 feet from the doors, and with cash registers on the left and right, I didn’t know where to line up, and neither did the few other customers that came in. As a result, everyone kind of converged upon counter at random and the staff had a hard time figuring out who was next from the mass of people.
The owner was there and said hello to everyone. He has clearly built relationships with his customers and I know speaking for myself that loyalty keep people coming in over and over again.
The line-up confusion came into play right away when I ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee only to find out that I had to go all the way to the right to order the sandwich again, but this time to the sandwich creator. I ordered the Ancho Chipotle Beef and Egg and then stood there feeling out of place whle she made the sandwich. Once it was ready, it was taken back to the cash and me, now out of line, had to go back into the middle of the group and order my coffee again, then wait for it, and pay.
So once that was taken care of I took my food and drink back to the office for the taste-testing. My large double double was bitter and not sweet enough. I think it was a large regular. UGH. The sandwich on the other hand was INCREDIBLE! I could not get over how fresh it tasted. It looked good, smelled good and tasted wonderful. I really enjoyed it and at the crazy low price of around $3.00 I could not understand why the place was not packed or why I was not eating there every day.
Day 3 – Country Style on East Beaver Creek again, this time for lunch. I ordered a large double double and a tuna sandwich which I was told I could have as a wrap on whole wheat. Again, the coffee was terrible but the wrap was incredible! My colleague ate the Tuscan Turkey with Bacon (and I believe some cranberry dressing) and she could not stop raving about how good the sandwich was.
I have had tuna wraps and other sandwiches from various locations in the area but this one was by far the best. It was not too dry, yet not too much mayonaise on it. It was the perfect size and a very reasonable price.
I’m starting to see a pattern here… Unpredictable coffee and amazing food, but with a coffee cup on the logo, I think there is an identify crisis going on here…
Day 4 – My son and I hit up a different location in Woodbridge on our way back from Ikea. This time we had some donut holes and I had – wait for it – a large double double. I was chatting with the one employee in the store while she was serving someone else and I asked how long the coffee sits. She said generally it’s a new pot after 30-40 minutes, so no issues there, but it was at this location where I figured out why my same large double double tastes so different each time. This location has a sugar bowl with a spoon in it for the sugar and uses a container of cream to add the cream, so unless these guys know how to make the perfect cup of coffee it’s a crapshoot.
I immediately thought of the machines they use at Tim Horton’s which are meant to dispense the exact same amount each time and thought that might be a great addition here.
The donut holes were a little stale and a lot sweet but the boy and I managed to finish them. He gave thumbs up to the ones with the pretty colourful sprinkles but could only eat 3 of them because of the vast amount of sprinkles on them, and the chocolate ones he said tasted funny. He was disappointed there were no blueberry ones, but I think we were both surprised at how sparse the donut section was at this location and the one on Dufferin where he had been with me.
Day 5 – Breakfast again on East Beaver Creek Road. I had the Skinny breakfast sandwich which is basically egg, tomato and lettuce. The Skinny is advertised as having on 5g of fat, but instead it should be advertised as having a TON of flavour. I inhaled this sandwich and like the other one I ate, I could not for the life of me figure out why I had not heard of this by now. The flavour were wonderful and the sandwich was so fresh and so tasty. Yum. I want one now. My coffee, on the other hand, I could not finish. It was, sadly, terrible.
Day 6 – A variety of donuts and muffins for the office with a coffee for myself. When I asked my staff if they wanted a coffee, no one took me up on my offer, calling the coffee “terrible”. Sorry guys. I did enjoy my coffee this time, it was pretty much perfect but I had to add a little more sugar to balance it out. The donuts and muffins were inhaled by everyone. Again, the variety in the store was vast, but limited. There was one pumpkin muffin in a display, and one other variety and two of a different variety which I thought was challenging as they were locatied on the counter, on the food prepareation station and on the back wall. By the time the employee weaved in and around the other employees to get all my muffins I noticed a different flavour but didn’t want to make her go through that again for me. I also noticed the sizes of the muffins differed with the new specialty muffins being much smaller than the regular sized ones. I found that odd too.
Again, it got me thinking… Muffins and donuts. You can’t have all the varieties, and after tasting the food I would really expect the sweets to be on the unique side, but of a higher quality, ala Starbucks and less common, like Tim Horton’s.
Day 7 – Soup! Cream of Mushroom, Red Thai Curry Chicken with Rice, Broccoli and Cheese. Le Swiss breakfast sandwich and a house salad. The soups were very nice and the salad was fantastic, even the Le Swiss tasted like they used real swiss cheese. Ordering the food was chaotic and it took almost as long to order it all as it did to eat it, but it was worth it. I had to check the bill twice to see if they forgot to charge me for something since it was so reasonable.
So after one solid week of visiting Country Style I can safely say my ranking for the coffee is accurate. The coffee was given to me 2 out of 7 times where I enjoyed the cup. I was not sure if it was stale, or just not made properly, but I was greatly disappointed in this.
The food, however, was amazing. I cannot tell you how many people I have mentioned this to. The breakfast sandwiches were fabulous, the lunch selection is vast, the food yummy and the prices are more than reasonable.
The sweets were disappointing. As someone who would bring in treets for my staff, the selection of donuts and muffins did not shout out to me to buy them. It looked like the stores were stocking just enough for the anticipated crowd but what it told me was that the selection was not fresh and there was not enough of a selection to bring in 2 or 3 dozen of anything without clearing out the total supply.
So in concluding, since I hear ads for Country Style on the Virgin Radio morning show, I can only think that they are trying to get people to notice their new menu choices through Bistro and these ads – if I recall correctly – are not coffee commercials, but commercials for a destination to eat. That tells me that Country Style know they have an identity crisis and are trying to work thorugh it and I have just the solution. Aside for getting better coffee in there – something different, maybe flavours, or maybe organic or fair trade, they need to go full throttle on the food. Super low prices, a sandwich of the week, giving out samples, getting them in the media somehow like on CP24′s Breakfast television, something, somehow, they need people trying these fantastic sandwiches and they need to promote the healthy side of it because their competitors are either very expensive (Starbucks) or high in fat and salt (Tim Horton’s).
I know they need better coffee as most people I see in the mornings going into places for coffee usually grab something to eat too. I would for sure go in for the food, but not for the coffee.
Good luck Country Style.
See you soon.
Whew. I made it to Sunday night. That’s a big deal considering what this week held for me and what next week has in store.
Before I begin, however, can I ask that someone… Anyone… Remind me via the comment section to this blog, or through my urban daddy Facebook page, or @urbandaddyblog on Twitter about this comment should I mention it ever again in the future. Thanks.
Here is the comment: I think my daughter, Berry, may be a little OCD. Why? Because I asked her to help clean up in the kitchen earlier today and I caught her laying on her tummy on the floor. I thought she was playing, or looking under the table, but no, she brought over to me a poppy seed. Yup. A poppy seed from a bagel.
She had me remove it from in between her fingers as she said, “clean up. Dirty”.
At first I thought it was humourous, until she brought me another, then I stopped her when she went for more.
So I never made it to the CIBC Run for the Cure since I finally succumbed to the horrible flu that felled my entire family over the past few weeks. The highlight of the weekend for me had to be falling asleep while playing with my daughter for an hour when my wife had the boys out at the Science Centre. She merrily played on.
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True to my word, I took the Country Style challenge, day one, and I picked up a large 2 cream, 2 sugar (not to be confused with the Tim Horton’s large double double) and considering it was 5pm and I expected the coffee to be bitter, I found it to be okay. I went to the location at Dufferin, just north of Roselawn – a drive through and got a not so white, very sweet cup of coffee which seemed to get better as it cooled. I can’t help but think that these guys would be better off settling on 2nd fiddle after Tim Horton’s – possibly through offering a better food option, but there is no way these guys compare to Starbucks. IMHO.
I also was leery about having the coffee there so late since I know Timmy’s has that 20 minute fresh pot policy, and I’m sure CS does not. For all I knew that pot could have been simmering for an hour.
Another memorable moment from this past weekend was Stewie singing the entire Dora the Explorer theme song to Berry. He knew every word and was on key. Sure he hates that show… LOL. At least I prefer this behaviour than his frequent attempts to get Berry to play with him, or follow him.
This is a common occurence between him and her;
Him: Berry! Come play with me.
Him: Yes. Come play.
Her: NO play, Stewie.
Him: Want ice cream?
Her: Yes!!! Want ice cream, please.
So she follows him.
Now remove “ice cream” and replace with key Berry-favoured words like “Dora” and “Chocolate”.
This explains why she woke up last weekend from afternoon nap shouting, “Berry want ice cream, please”.
In my 2011 Coffee rankings I ranked Country Style coffee at #8 out of 11, and my comments to justify my ranking were this;
“Country Style comes in at number 8 because it used to have good coffee, much better than Coffee Time, but no longer. Country Style sponsors the Toronto Rock Lacrosse team, however Tim Horton’s coffee is served at the Air Canada Centre. There is a Country Style near my office and the 3 times I have gone there to get something, I have been disappointed every time. The first time was for donuts – the selection was terrible – the second time was for a coffee – it was bitter and stale – and the third time was for a cold drink on a very hot day and that drink was barely adequate. So for a chain with new colours and large, spacious locations, they need to conduct some more product testing to see what people will actually buy. Very disappointing.”
As a result of this post – and I wanted to be fair, not bitchy to them, I received this following comment from the kind folks at Country Style;
“Hi Urban Daddy,
Country Style here, and we are sorry to hear that your last three experiences at our location have not reached your expectations. Of course, it is very important to us that our customers always have the most positive experience when visiting a Country Style. If possible, we would like to get some more information from you on the location that you visited. Would you mind emailing us at CoffeeLover@countrystyle.ca
Thanks very much,
So I don’t have to mention how impressed I am with this response do I? I love that organizations use social media and I love that it took these folks no time to publicly reach out and express their concern.
Writing that opinion of Country Style, and it is my opinion, bothered me at the time because I want nothing more than for all local businesses, especially Canadian ones to succeed at all costs. I love the new colours of Country Style, and I love that they sponsor the Toronto Rock – a team I have had seasons tickets for, for since their first year in Toronto.
So here is what I am going to do…
Next week, I am going to march back into that store, and try a lot of stuff, so when I give my feedback to the kind folks there, I know that it’s timely and well researched. Now to be fair, I was there in the past month, so my views on their hot and cold drinks are both recent and obviously memorable, but I don’t want – nor do I think I can – influence your decision when you are looking for a cup of coffee. For me personally, the local Country Style is the closest coffee shop to my office and since I regularly buy coffee for myself, my staff and for meetings, I’m going to give them another look and see what turns up.
For those of you who may be unaware, here are some facts about Country Style, courtesy Wikipedia, of course.
Country Style has been in business since 1963 when it opened its first location in Toronto. By 1974 there were 50 stores when it was the leading coffee and donut establishment in Canada above Tim Hortons (which passed it two years later). By 2001, Country Style had been forced to close a quarter of its stores due to decreasing market share in an increasingly competitive Canadian market. Since then, it has opened many new stores and currently ranks third behind Tim Horton’s and Starbucks in the Canadian coffee market.
In 2006, Country Style changed its image to a more upscale style: “Country Style Bistro Deli”. The new image includes a new logo, a new website, and an enhanced branded deli menu that phased into their stores. The change was made to compete more with Starbucks than Tim Horton’s however providing a wider range of soups, sandwiches, salads and wraps. If you didn’t know that, you were not the only one.
Country Style has been partnered with the Make a Wish foundation since 2003, and have raised over $1,000,000 for the organization which is a LOT of coffee sold.
So take the Country Style challenge with me, and let me know what you thought, and I’ll make sure all comments are posted. My Country Style is in Richmond Hill, Ontario and I’m going there Monday!
Without further delay, please enjoy reading this urban daddy’s 3rd annual coffee shop rankings for 2011.
These rankings are based on the following criteria;
4. Other intangibles, such as snacks, how to pay and additional perks.
So sit right back with your cuppa java and let’s go!
1. Java Joe’s
2. Tim Horton’s
4. Coffee Time
6. Second Cup
7. Tim Horton’s US
8. Country Style
9. Dunkin Donuts
10. Seattle’s Best Coffee
So how did I come to these conclusions, you may ask??? Easily.
For value, taste and freshness, Java Joe’s is the hands down winner this year. I have found that the flavours are fantastic whether it is their Cinnamon Hazelnut, Jamaica Me Crazy, Raspberry Chocolate, Banana Cream, Caramel, or even their Irish Cream (and I detest Irish Cream!) Even the regular coffees they sell have some great flavour to them.I go to Java Joe’s when I want a good cup of coffee full of flavour and body. When I just want a coffee that I can savor I put to no price on that. As well, their containers that they use to hold the coffee after it is brewed keeps the coffee hot and does not water it down (from condensation) nor does it cause the coffee to continue brewing and therefore get bitter. If you have read this blog before, you may recall that the Java Joe’s I frequent opened up near my office and that was how I came across them. Before Tim Horton’s finally started taking debit, I would always hit up Java Joe’s who take debit, credit, and cash. In addition, their food (sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads) are way better than can be had at any coffee shop on this list and they also have a wonderful selection of organic teas, cold iced drinks plus the full range of hot drinks like latte’s, Americano’s, mochachinos and cappuccinos. The staff are great and the place has cool tables and chairs, WiFi and a flat screen TV which you can watch while sitting next to the built-in fireplace. Eat-in or eat-out. Don’t forget the catering.
All of this makes Java Joe’s #1 on my 2011 rankings.
Tim Horton’s comes in at #2 this year for a couple of reasons. First of all I have found that they are becoming inconsistent – a cup of coffee at one location will not taste the same as one in another location and it also varies during the time of day usually based on who is making it. There are 4 Timmy’s within 10 blocks of my office and the one I normally go to have done something to their coffee (possibly using 2 packets of coffee for 3 pots of water) and I cannot go there again. Secondly, their Roll up the Rim contest was very disappointing this year as I bought 2-3 coffees a day every day of the contest and barely won at all. Yes, their addition of oatmeal gives them top marks – but you have to order it with just berries – no brown sugar powder – otherwise it’s not healthy at all, and I found they put in the sugar powder whether you ask for it or not.I do like the 3 new bagel flavours at Tim Hortons, however a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese still gets top marks for me with my large double double. I have not eaten anything else there since I got sick eating a bowl of their chili along with a colleague of mine who got sick as well. A visit there won’t break the bank, and in some areas they seem to be on every block. Sure, they rarely stir the coffee, but for $1.65 for a large… You can’t go wrong. And where else would I be able to say, I’ll have a large double double, please”, and get a smile and a “yes sir”.
Starbucks, while pricey, and serving very strong coffee come in at number 3 mainly because of their fantastic Cafe Americano’s, which are a very smooth drink and costs slightly more than the price of a regular coffee. At the suggestion of our friend, Mr. Real Estate Marshall Cohen, I got hooked on having the Americano with a pump of mocha (free if you have a convenience card but you have to police that as they will more often than not charge the $0.35 for that shot) and during the holidays I added a pump of mint too. Plus, their give you a coupon for a free anything if you don’t like your drink, or waiting too long for it AND, often offer free samples. Their oatmeal is the perfect treat for a toddler as is their cheese plate (although really pricey). My kids love the wooden stir sticks (sticks) and the automatic doors. It’s nice to be able to sit at Starbucks, do the Guterman.
Coffee Time actually has really good coffee with surprisingly nice flavor, more so I found than Tim Horton’s do nowadays, however the coffee must be consumed when freshly made because Coffee Time still uses the pot directly on the burner brewing so the coffee stays hot but gets stale really quickly. They also have some very interesting treats which are not outstanding but if you are hungry and cheap, hits the spot. I have often walked in to have a coffee there because I feel sorry they don’t do a better job getting their brand out. When the place is busy you have a wide selection to choose from – drinks, soups, donuts, treats, muffins, but come in during a quiet period and you won’t be able to find any donuts, let alone a staff member to help you out. Drink the coffee then, and you will understand why the low price. I almost feel like they have lost touch with their client base and are a day, week, month or year from bankruptcy.
Timothy’s comes in at number 5 this year because I think they have found their comfortable niche in the coffee marketplace as on giant step below Starbucks for price and one giant step below Tim Horton’s for flavor but light years ahead of the Second Cup for choices of flavors and price on extras. The flavors sold at my local Timothy’s are great and it’s busy enough that the coffee rarely gets bitter but I have always said when fresh, Timothy’s could be one of the best but their coffee is rarely fresh, a large is $2.00 and it takes 4 sugars and lots of cream to bring down the bitterness. Also they need to do is find a way to keep the coffee fresh and they’ll save a ton in other stuff. They also need to focus on the name and stock their locations with the history. Build the brand!
Second Cup comes in at number 6 because I hate their old, bitter coffee and stupidly high prices for this crap – but I had a coffee there today (first in months) that was half Butter Pecan (their best flavour) and half Holiday Blend. Sure I needed 4 sugars but it was actually quite good. They need to find a way to keep their coffee fresher – I doubt they would have the traffic to keep making new pots every 15 minutes like Tim Horton’s but they could try picking a flavour and for that specialty flavour, they will make a fresh post every 15 minutes and see what the responses from their customers are. The other main issue Second Cup needs to address is their choice of coffees. Normally they have 5 or 6 different types. One decaf, one is a medium and one is a strong. There is a mild – something like a Paradiso (whatever the heck that means) and then the flavour… I hate Irish Cream!!! Detest it! That is usually their one flavoured coffee and when asked why, I was told, it is because it is popular. Probably because they don’t regularly offer their good flavors like Butter Pecan and Caramelo in high rotation – as everyone knows that flavoured coffees need less sugar and cream to mask staleness or bitterness, which means less costs. They’re sweets are poorly chosen and to be honest I can’t eat them after piling all that sugar into my drink.The Second Cup does not take advantage of is the space they have in most of their shops which they could totally utilize to capitalize on families by offering a safe environment for kids and snacks under 5000 calories – something healthy. Anything healthy?
Seriously, a place for parents to take their kids after dinner to hang out and buy healthy treats might save a few locations… Better than being empty, eh?
I ranked the US version of Tim Horton’s at number 7 because an American double double tastes VERY different from the Canadian version. As well, a large US version is the size of an XL Canadian version and a XL US version is like the size of a take ten. But seriously, the US Tim Horton’s coffee is okay, but it’s not great. I feel bad for Americans who hear us Canucks rave about our coffee and then have to drink that.
Country Style comes in at number 8 because it used to have good coffee, much better than Coffee Time, but no longer. Country Style sponsors the Toronto Rock Lacrosse team, however Tim Horton’s coffee is served at the Air Canada Centre. There is a Country Style near my office and the 3 times I have gone there to get something, I have been disappointed every time. The first time was for donuts – the selection was terrible – the second time was for a coffee – it was bitter and stale – and the third time was for a cold drink on a very hot day and that drink was barely adequate. So for a chain with new colours and large, spacious locations, they need to conduct some more product testing to see what people will actually buy. Very disappointing.
Dunkin Donuts comes in at number 9 because I heard so much about this brand from this side of the border and I was dying to try it. So when in New York, I tried it. Then again in New Jersey… and in Florida. Boy do I feel sorry for Americans coffee drinkers. This stuff is the most watered down “coffee” I have ever purchased in a chain. Sure I can get it in super-duper large sized, but Dunkin Donuts makes the only coffee I have thrown out without finishing… Twice.
Seattle’s Best Coffee comes in at number 10 because I have only tried it once… At Newark Airport. I scraped together $2.00 for a cup (I believe there were only 4 “flavours”) and then after putting in a lot of sugar and cream until I could taste it, I looked at the person behind the counter and said, “If this is Seattle’s BEST, I’d hate to see their worst…” Hey, isn’t Starbucks from Seattle? I got through half a cup.
Last year I gave honourable mention to McDonald’s coffee which I tried that year for the first time when it was free, and then again this year when it was free. But, can I tell you all… It’s so bad that I won’t even drink it for free. That stuff is terrible.
What are your thoughts on my rankings?? What’s your favourite coffee?
Looking for readers to take this coffee poll for Java Joe’s Richmond Hill. We’re looking to see which coffee flavours are the most popular and which will bring in the most traffic.
Personally, I love the cinnamon, toasted marshmallow and snicker doodle (don’t let the name fool you!), but not the butter pecan.
Give me your thoughts!
You might just win some coffee beans.
And remember, flavoured coffee generally needs cream AND sugar in order to bring out the true flavour of the bean…