I ended up at Tim Hortons over the weekend, the iconic Canadian coffee shop.
I bought an Earl Grey tea.
I wasn’t going to write about it, just drink it.
After I started drinking it, however, I realized how often I’ve gone into some chain coffee shop, or a restaurant with some recognizable mass-market brand of tea, and really wished there were something I could identify as something good.
Usually, I just end up getting a water.
How Good Is Tim Hortons Earl Grey?
I settled on Earl Grey after looking at the options. Earl Grey isn’t too variable in the flavors blended into it, and, even if the tea isn’t great, the citrus flavor makes up for it.
I certainly have gone wrong with Earl Grey in the past once (a story for another post), but I figured this was a risk worth taking, since tea was all that sounded good.
I got the tea and hot water, and left the bag in for four minutes.
Tim Hortons Earl Grey started off in the first sip with flavors you would expect: Bergamot, some floral notes, and a thin, raisin-like aftertaste.
The bergamot flavors seemed to dissipate almost right away, long before the tea had cooled at all, and what was left wasn’t all that pleasant. As I kept drinking the cup, it seemed to drift into an almost jasmine-tea flavor, that culminated in something resembling cheap bathroom handsoap.
Despite the fact that the tea in the cup was dark — almost the color of a cup of Yorkshire Tea steeped till the spoon stands up — the mouthfeel was incredibly thin and watery.
So dark! But the tea had almost no tannins, which was something I began to long for, as there wasn’t much else to balance out the lemon dishwashing liquid notes that pervaded this tea.
This was a cup of peculiar contrasts.
While I had a hankering for a cup of tea, and I was glad to have it, this wasn’t a great offering.
Tim Hortons Can Do No Wrong, and You, Charles, Are a Hoser
I know, reviewing tea from Tim Hortons is like reviewing the local bar by the quality of their parking lot: It’s not what you go there for.
Tim Hortons brings to mind walking through Toronto, stopping in somewhere late at night for a doughnut or sandwich when nothing else around was open.
The restaurant was always an inviting beacon — a place to escape the chill in the winter, or the mugginess in the summer.
Throughout southern Ontario, Tim Hortons is ubiquitous, and I probably visited more Tim Hortons north of the border than anywhere else. (A close second, though, might have been their competitor Coffee Time, which seemed, years ago, to be a restaurant devoted to patrons chain-smoking an entire pack of Players in one sitting in the dingy, glassed-in smoking section, tables littered with empty packs covered in disgusting warning labels.)
What you should get at Tim Hortons is coffee. Their coffee is excellent — super for a chain, and I would argue it is good even by independent coffee shop criteria.
Their doughnuts are perfectly fine, and their selection of soups and sandwiches are always a treat.
It’s also pleasant as fast-food restaurants go: Real plates and silverware, and mugs for your coffee.
And now that they have shops in the U.S., which took years to finally reach me, I hate to say rotten things about their Earl Grey.
We’re Up All Night to Get Coffee
Instead of taking this post as a knock against Tim Hortons Earl Grey tea, instead consider it a recommendation to get a small coffee, original roast, black.