Home of the Double Double: Unpacking Canadian Coffee Culture

If you can believe it, Canada slides into the top ten list of countries with the highest coffee consumption per capita. We’re right up there with the Finns, who love their coffee so much that they have two legally mandated 10 minute coffee breaks per work day. Sharing space with Denmark and Sweden, whose languages each have their own respective words specifically to describe social gatherings around coffee. And Switzerland, who literally invented Nespresso. 

We claim title as the only non-European country to make it into that top 10. According to the Coffee Association of Canada, coffee and tap water are the most commonly consumed beverages in the past day, with coffee beating tap water! 

It’s no surprise, really, given the amount of time each year we spend freezing our buns off up here. Coffee consumption tends to increase around the world in colder climates. That’s why we beat out the States, no competition. Perhaps our friends just on the other side of the border can match our average 2.7 cups of java per day, but no way folks living in the Sunshine State are starting each day with a steaming cup of joe. 

Bundle up, grab your toque AND your toonie. We’re going on a journey (or for a rip, if you will) to explore our country’s uniquely Canadian coffee culture. 

It all started with a hockey player named Tim. Just kidding, Canadians were drinking coffee before that. But in 1963, a Canadian coffee legend was born. Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman, Tim Horton, met his future business partner, Jim Charade, in a strip mall at Lawrence and Warden. Jim owned a donut shop called Your Do-Nut two doors down from Tim Horton’s barber shop. 

Jim licensed Tim’s name to turn his shop, Your Do-Nut, into Tim Horton Do-Nut. The first Tim Horton doughnut franchise opened in Hamilton, Ontario on Ottawa Street in April 1964 and remains open to this day, recognized as the first official Tim Hortons franchise restaurant. 

Today, there is one Tim Hortons for every 9,000 Canadians, making it the largest food service restaurant in Canada. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to meet a small town in Canada that doesn’t have a Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons coffee even dominates the at home coffee market, with 15% of Canadians citing Timmies as their chosen at home coffee brand according to Twentify.

So deeply has Timmies cultured penetrated the hearts of Canadians that a uniquely Tims phrase was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary in 2004. A “double-double” refers to a coffee with two creams and two sugars. The phrase, developed over many years and many coffees ordered, has become common Canadian slang, making its way onto many must know lists for travelers visiting Canada. 

The pandemic ushered in a steep decline in the number of coffees being purchased by Canadians. Out of home coffee purchases in the previous day plunged from 40% in 2019 to 27% in 2022. And rising inflation rates have led to Canadians continuing to opt for preparing their own coffee at home to save money. 

Next time you have some change to spare, consider popping over to your local Tims franchise or supporting another local coffee shop near you. Enjoy a Danish kaffeslabberas (informal social gathering where coffee and cake is offered, often after dinner), or a Swedish Fika (extended coffee break from work where you socialize with friends) right here in Canada.