Starbucks versus Tim Hortons in a latte showdown


Photo by Luke Sarazin

This year Tim Hortons introduced its “perfectly uncomplicated” latte to Canadian and international consumers.

The usual hotspot for a double-double or a Boston cream donut is now attempting to size up with its Seattle-born competitor Starbucks – known for their Macchiatos and Frappucinos. Starbucks is the kind of place that allows your not-so-typical coffee consumer to get their dose of caffeine in fun, less traditional ways.

The two coffee spots have their various differences. The Starbucks menu has more options comparatively, but the prices at Tim’s – even with their recent price increase – are significantly less expensive. Both coffee establishments have their pros and cons, but when it comes to comparing the new Tim Hortons latte with the classic Starbucks latte–which can be altered to suit various taste and dietary restrictions – there is most definitely a clear winner.

First I am going to take you on a caffeine induced journey to compare and contrast the ‘latte’ at both coffee jaunts. To start, Tim Hortons made the decision to start serving lattes, which is admirable considering Starbucks is the fuel that drives most 20-somethings as they take their venti, non-fat, vanilla-something-or-other into their dreaded 8 a.m. lecture.

This Tim Hortons latte is as uncomplicated as they say. I approached the counter and simply said “latte please,” and I got one within 10 seconds. The bill was another thing that made my wallet happy; only $3.14 for a medium latte? Definitely complimentary to a student budget. Upon taking off the lid I was happy to see that foam finish you would find on an authentic Italian latte–minus the fancy design you would get from most baristas in Italy. So far so good.

Taking my first sip I was however overwhelmed with this milky coffee taste that I would usually anticipate when free-pouring cream into my half-empty coffee cup at my mom’s house–definitely not the espresso taste I was anticipating.

The espresso is hidden in the foam topping, which I just realized makes up half of the cup.

Overall this does not taste like a latte; this tastes more like a triple-triple. That being said, I’m sure if you added an extra espresso shot for $0.70 you could improve this latte significantly.

The Starbucks in my hometown is busy and crowded as usual, but I managed to find a table to set my belongings down upon as I set up camp, situated nearest to an electrical outlet of course.

I stood in line for five minutes before I was even able to look at the menu.

When I finally got to the front of the line my caffeine jitters from the Timmies latte had waned. I ordered a tall latte and when the barista asked if I wanted to make any modifications to my order I said “No thank you, just regular milk and espresso.”

At Starbucks you can significantly alter your latte to taste like a hot chocolate or caramel macchiato–almost unrecognizable from its original form. The total for my order came to $3.94 for a small latte with no substitutions or add-ons. For a student budget, spending four dollars on a small coffee is a lot, especially considering the fact that the average student will likely buy or make another coffee in just a few short hours. That being said, the latte had a beautiful finish to it, with the espresso ring around the front face of the coffee and all.

The first word that comes to mind when tasting the Starbucks latte is “smooth”. The espresso – which I can clearly taste – and the steamed milk are swimming together in harmony. After three sips I can already feel the caffeine doing its work. I can tell that this espresso is just right because it is not too sour or bitter; I taste the richness of the coffee bean as it collides with the creaminess of the 2% milk. This latte is enjoyable and everything I would want in my first coffee of the day.

Evidently there is pros and cons for any coffee establishment and these two are no exception. The Starbucks latte is pricey for the size and amount of coffee you receive, however the quality is significantly better than Tim Hortons.

Tim Hortons has an efficient system when retrieving your beverage; you say latte and you get one at the reasonable price of $3.14.

Ultimately the quality of the espresso could not be commented on due to the fact that it was almost non-existent.

If you want an authentic coffee experience without the plane ticket, head over to Starbucks. If you want a latte that’s inexpensive – and loaded with milk – make a trip down to your local Tim Hortons.

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