Tim Hortons: Canada in a cup

Earlier this week, I was enjoying a coffee at a local Tim Horton’s doughnut shop. I had already successfully burnt my tongue, and felt ready to tackle my next mission –picking Cult Canada’s first-ever article topic.

I pulled out a sheet of loose leaf paper, and hunted for inspiration. What person/place/thing/event truly encapsulates Canadian culture? How could I convince readers that Canada is not simply “America’s Hat,” that our differences go beyond simply health care and ice hockey?

I sipped on my coffee with an ever-growing frustration. I was beginning to contemplate falling back on the Great Maple Syrup Heist of 2012. It was a hilarious story, one of those examples of reality being truly weirder than fiction. But I wanted to avoid ‘making fun’ of Canada – that was NOT my goal either!

For the record, the maple syrup heist actually happened. You can’t make that sort of thing up. Check it out here

Giving into my growing frustration, I decided to ease the pain with an apple fritter doughnut. The pastry has long been among my favourite artery-clogging delights at Tim Horton’s. The first bite has always reminded me of childhood ice-fishing dates with my grandfather. The old man used to love his fritters.


Apple Fritter

The Apple Fritter might not look particularly appetizing, but it is the original doughnut served by Tim Horton himself in 1964.

With a half-eaten apple fritter in hand, my eureka moment finally struck: “Tim Horton’s is pretty damn Canadian, eh?”

It is — Tim Horton’s is so Canadian it practically hurts.

Tim Horton’s: Canada in a Cup

Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bake Shop was founded in 1964 by a professional ice hockey player. You guessed correctly – the founder’s name was Tim Horton.

Tim Hortons coffee & bake shop

Horton famously held the NHL’s Iron Man record by playing 486 consecutive games (he once even played with a fractured leg). With Horton leading their back-end, the Toronto Maple Leafs won four Stanley Cup championships. The last win came in 1967, and the Leafs have not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since!

Although the real-life Horton died in a 1974 car crash, the coffee & doughnut shop he founded has continued to grow into a Canadian powerhouse.

The first Tim Horton’s (or Timmies, for short) opened in Hamilton, Ontario. Since 1964, Timmies restaurants now stretch from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic.

There are now over 3,600 Tim Horton’s franchises in Canada, double the number of McDonald’s in the great white North. All over the country, from Halifax to Victoria, Canadians line up every morning for their Timmies brew! Tim Horton’s sells approximately two billion cups of coffee annually and account for 7/10 cups of coffee sold in ‘quick serve’ restaurants in Canada. In recent years, the company has also developed a foothold in the Northern United States. There is now even a Timmies on 42nd street in Times Square!

Along with its signature coffee and doughnuts, Tim Horton’s has become noteworthy in Canada for its Iced Cappucinos and its annual Rolllllll up the Rim contest.

When Rolllllll up the Rim arrives in Canadian towns, every takeaway cup transforms into a makeshift lottery ticket. This contest has become a Canadian staple for a quarter century, handing out prizes and spawning plenty “who owns the cup” controversies.

I personally won an Ipod Nano back in 2008, when my grandfather rolled up his own rim. He was too focused on fishing and didn’t own a computer. Since then, I have not hesitated to garbage pick when someone around me leaves their rim unrolled!



If you do not live in a major Canadian city, Tim Horton’s is likely your only source of coffee. But don’t fret — there are usually plenty of them!

My hometown of St-Lazare, Quebec, claimed three different Tim Horton’s franchises within ten minutes of my front door. Crazy, or Canadian? The answer is ‘both’.

Nowadays, Tim Horton’s spends tons of $$$ in marketing itself as Canadian. Its advertisements normally center around hockey rinks, and the company sponsors youth hockey leagues known as Timbits. 

Although the company was recently purchased by Burger King, nothing says CANADA more than a Tim Hortons commercial. Enjoy this videolink & see you next week!


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Cult Canada correspondent
Jeffrey - Montreal

Proud Montrealer. Proud Quebecois. Proud Canadian. You know what that means, eh? I'm a history dork and short story writer. Sometimes I emulate Jack Kerouac too much -- there is nothing I adore more than aimless roadtrips! I'm a walking Canadian stereotype: ...

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Capital: Ottawa
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Languages: French, English

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