Posted in Life

Urban Daddy’s 3rd Annual Coffee Shop Rankings – 2011

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;

1.       Taste

2.       Price

3.       Freshness

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

3. Starbucks

4. Coffee Time

5. Timothys

6. Second Cup

7. Tim Horton’s US

8. Country Style

9. Dunkin Donuts

10. Seattle’s Best Coffee

11. McDonald’s


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?