Much like with our hockey teams, the US and Canada have been fierce competitors with coffee chains over the past few decades.

Starbucks and Tim Hortons are the most popular coffee chains in the US and Canada, respectively. 

While they have many differences, they also have many similarities that can leave one wondering, “Which is best?”. 

Having spent substantial time at both chains, I’m here to break it all down and explain where each one wins and comes up short. 

When it comes to coffee, a lot of what’s considered to be ‘better’ simply comes down to individual preference.

Tim Hortons and Starbucks offer coffee, but they offer very different experiences of coffee.

Let’s dive in a bit deeper:

Price Range

Tim’s is the clear winner when it comes to pricing. 

There’s a reason for that, though; Starbucks focuses on taste and sustainability over affordability.[1]

Starbucks source only fair-trade products from small coffee farmers all over the world.

However, their cups are lined with a plastic that make them non-recyclable, so I wouldn’t exactly say they’re a very ’sustainable’ chain, as of now.

I feel that a lot of what I’m paying for in Starbucks is the atmosphere of the location itself, as well as the customizability options. 

Sometimes I’m willing to pay for that, and sometimes I’m just as happy with a good cup of Joe from TH. 

Beverage Menu Options

In terms of drinks, Starbucks has something for everyone.

Their menu includes Starbucks hot drinks, cold beverages, refreshers, tea, coffees, specialty bevs, smoothies, Frappuccinos, juices, hot chocolate, and more.

And that doesn't even include the long list of secret menu drinks or special flavors that can be added.

Compared to Starbucks, Tims has limited options.

They still manage to cover all the bases for coffee and tea drinkers (and recently added drinks similar to Starbucks’ refreshers), but I know if I want something very specific, to go to Sbux.

They carry fewer flavored syrups, fewer additives, and fewer options for vegans. Starbucks has tons of vegan-friendly options, however.

Coffee Quality

The main difference between Starbucks and Tim Hortons has to do with the quality of the coffee served.

Starbucks baristas serve very high-quality coffee.

While Tim Horton’s coffee still tastes good and gets the job done, there’s really no comparison on this front.

I quite enjoy a fresh cup of standard restaurant-style coffee, and Tim’s does this very well. 

I really do like TH. However, Starbucks just tastes better and it seems to give me more energy.
Person putting hands in a burlap sack filled with fresh coffee beans

Customization Options

Starbucks has no competition when it comes to customization options. 

Just look at the milk options, alone: Tim’s only offers 2%, cream, almond, and soy, while Starbucks offers a whopping 10 different milks -  4 of them being dairy-free!

TH only has 3 syrup flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and caramel. 

Starbucks has over 2 dozen syrups and sauces. 

Not to mention, at Starbucks, I can customize the type of shots and espresso I want, whip or cold foam, toppings, the order in which my drink is built, and so much more. 

Beverage Sizes

Both coffee chains offer a variety of different sizes to choose from.

At Tims, a customer can order a small 8 or 10-ounce drink, or go for a larger 20 or 24-ounce option.

Starbucks cup sizes include the tall 12-ounce, grande 16-ounce, venti 24-ounce, or trenta 31-ounce.

All in all, Starbucks wins here.

Food Options

The Tim Hortons food menu is a long one. You could essentially eat all of your meals here without complaining about a lack of variety.

From hashbrowns and chili to their iconic Timbits, Tim Hortons focuses on serious comfort food. 

Starbucks has more of a ‘Parisian bistro’ food, with paninis, egg bites, scones, their famous Cake Pops, and much more.  

The section of Starbucks bakery options is more extensive than TH’s, but their donuts and other baked goods are nowhere near as fresh or tasty (in my opinion) as Tim’s. 

Starbucks food options in the display case

Healthy Options

Any Starbucks customer can rest easy knowing that there are plenty of healthy options to choose from.

The menu includes nutritious snacks, breakfast sandwiches, and even prepackaged protein boxes.[2]

While I’d argue to say the food is outright ‘healthy’ as the food is largely prepackaged, heavily-processed, and frozen before arriving to each Starbucks location, it’s probably better calorie-wise and carb-wise than TH. 

All Starbucks drinks can be customized for a healthier approach, too.

For example, if I want my drinks to be made with a Starbucks non-dairy alternative that's low calorie, it’s not difficult!

While it’s not impossible to eat healthy at Tims, there aren’t quite as many ‘health-conscious’ options.

Ambiance Within Their Cafes

Starbucks is all about providing customers with a peaceful atmosphere.

Starbucks is one of my favorite places to write, as it’s just relaxing, and frankly, comfortable. 

According to a 2020 article from the Telescope, “Starbucks often has a library-like ambiance: the wooden walls and tables, the warm glow of the lighting in the late afternoon, and earthly colors...”[3]

In comparison, Tim Hortons is...basically, the opposite. 

You know when you go into a gas station to grab a coffee and there’s just not a lot of room to walk around, and it’s just kind of chaotic? 

I’ve been to some slightly-calmer TH locations, but in general, that has been my experience. 

The red and white decor emphasizes the Canadian community, with bright lighting and a fast-food-like atmosphere. 

Inside a Tim Hortons coffee shop

Number Of Locations

Starbucks spread like wildfire in the 90s, and there are now more than 35,000 locations around the world.

This is about 7x more than the 5,000+ locations of Tim Hortons.

That means no matter where in the world we are, we're much more likely to stumble across a Starbucks than a Tim's.

Environmental Sustainability Approach

It’s more important than ever for companies and corporations to promote sustainable business practices.[4]

Starbucks is extremely proud of its own practices towards environmental sustainability.

The corporation does a lot to protect the environment and minimize its carbon footprint. They’ve even made a verbal commitment to reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by half by 2030.

Like most Canadian corporations, Tim's has also made a strong commitment to protecting our planet.

They use eco-friendly packing designs and green building designs in all of their stores.

Employment Opportunities

Both companies treat their employees very well.

I used to work at Starbucks and can say first-hand how amazing the opportunities the corporation provided were. 

At Starbucks, part and full-time workers are eligible for benefits like health coverage, 401(k)s, parental leave, tuition coverage, hefty store discounts, and even free Spotify subscriptions.

Tim Hortons employees aren’t complaining, either.

Just like Starbucks, Tims workers can qualify for health coverage through the company, 401(k)s, discounts, and paid leave.

Rewards For Customers

If you download the Starbucks app, you can rack up points (or stars) toward free menu items every time you order.

Members can also get freebies like birthday treats on the house and free refills.

However, I noticed that very recently, Starbucks made it harder to get free drinks and other products as they adjusted their rewards system.

Tim’s also recently made it more challenging to get freebies, so they’re both quite similar. They have a pretty good reward program. For every dollar you spend, you receive 10 points.

Once the customer gets to a certain number of points, they can cash in for free coffee and baked goods.

Both rewards programs have frankly gone downhill quite a bit, so I’ll call it a tie. 

Starbucks Rewards - Stars

Tim Hortons Overview

Tim Hortons is charming in a simple, small-town kind of way. They know they’re a no-frills coffee chain, and they’re okay with that.

The customer service is great, the food and drinks are tasty, and for the affordability, it’s.a fantastic option.

For me, there’s no question why it’s currently Canada’s largest restaurant chain.

It’s not even uncommon to hear customers use TH lingo at a Starbucks when placing their orders. 

The first store opened its doors back in 1964 in Ontario by founders Jim Charade and Ron Joyce, and the brand has been going strong ever since.

According to the company, Tim Horton stores are “serving over 5 million cups of coffee every day with 80% of Canadians visiting a Tims in Canada at least once a month.”[5]

Tims locations have expanded all across the north, and there are even 600+ that have made it to the US.

The company isn’t just focused on serving premium coffee; it also believes in giving back to the community.

Every year, this corporation donates more than $60 million to local organizations.

Reasons You Should Choose Tim Hortons

There are plenty of reasons to love Tim Hortons:

  • Extensive food items, including donuts, bagels, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, croissants, danishes, and more
  • Tim Hortons coffee costs much less than Starbucks
  • Fast and friendly service
  • Tim Hortons brand is focused on community and comfort
Tim Hortons coffee shop

Starbucks Overview

The Starbucks story began in 1971 in the historic Seattle Pike Place Market (kind of - long story).

The coffee shop was originally founded by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl - all entrepreneurs with a strong background in the food-and-bev industry.

It was in the 80s that Starbucks expanded its business internationally.

At this time, a man named Howard Schultz took his first sip of Starbucks coffee and immediately became captivated.

Schultz joined the company in 1982 when it was still a single-location store. After a trip to Milan the following year, he brought European coffee culture to the Starbucks name.

The “new” Starbucks was heavily influenced Italian coffee shop culture, where people really lived around having coffee.

They also brought art and trendiness into the picture, which took off at the height of coffee popularity in the 90s.[6]

By the mid-90s, Starbucks customers could be found all over the world.

The current market value of the brand is more than $100 billion, and there are more than 35,000 stores around the globe.

Reasons You Should Choose Starbucks

Aside from the convenient accessibility of Starbucks beverage and food items, here are some more reasons why Starbucks is great:

  • Provides customers with countless drink options, even for those with diet restrictions
  • Tons of secret items that any Starbucks barista can craft to perfection
  • Fairly large selection of meals and snacks available
  • Ethical practices help support small farmers around the world
  • Every coffee-based drink is brewed using high-quality grounds
Starbucks coffee shop

Common Tim Hortons and Starbucks Questions

Does Tim Hortons or Starbucks cost more for a regular coffee?

Starbucks regular coffee cost’s significantly more than Tim Hortons. In fact, it’s safe to say just about everything at Starbucks is more expensive than TH. 

What's the difference between Tim Hortons Iced Capp vs Starbucks Frappuccino?

The Iced Capp at Tims is very similar to a Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino - albeit, a bit more watery. It's a blended drink made with cream and frozen coffee, perfect for summertime sipping.

Which countries have Tim Hortons?

Tim Hortons currently has more than 5,000 stores across 13 different countries. These countries include Canada, the United States, Mexico, Spain, the UK, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and locations across the Middle East.[7]

What is Tim Horton’s most popular drink?

Double Double coffees are definitely the most-ordered item on the Tim Horton’s menu. The “double double” refers to two shots of cream along with two sugars added to the original Tim Hortons coffee blend (similar to a Starbucks Blonde Espresso).

Does Tim Hortons have a pumpkin spice latte?

Yes, Tim Hortons offers the classic pumpkin spice latte as well as other fall-themed drinks and food items. Just like the Starbucks PSL, pumpkin spice products at Tims are seasonal.

Is Tim Hortons Or Starbucks Better? (Our Verdict)

For me, there is no clear winner between Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

They’re both great in their own ways: Tim’s is affordable and simplistically good while Starbucks is a bit more ‘upscale’ yet much more expensive. 

They’re both constantly offering new products and evolving, and they reach bigger markets by catering to everyone, including those with specific dietary needs.

I love them both and I’m glad that they’re both around - I wouldn’t want to have to choose!



Caitlin Shaffer


Caitlin Shaffer
Caitlin Shaffer, is a knowledgeable coffee expert and passionate writer. Her articles are a mix of personal experiences, insights gained from her travels, and interviews, offering an extensive view of the global coffee scene. Caitlin enjoys embarking on new travel adventures, often to destinations celebrated for their unique coffee offerings, from Indonesia to Italy and Colombia, adding a worldly flavor to her articles. Her go-to coffee? Cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup – a personal favorite that keeps her love for coffee fresh and exciting.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup.

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