The United States may have its various regional fast foods, but Canada has always had one, unifying business: Tim Hortons. Maybe that’s why it seems like Canadians are always so unified (even though the reality is that, like America, there are great cultural divides across the country, and issues that neither side of the political spectrum can seem to agree upon)., Despite all of the issues in Canada though, one thing remains stable as ever: the love for Tim Hortons. This simple donut and coffee shop which has since its inception expanded into an international business empire still holds its roots in the country from which it came. It is a place that serves simple food, but with pride. It bears the name of a famous hockey player and unabashedly connects itself to the Canadian public at large as the sort of go-to place for food, coffee, and sometimes just a place to sit and read the paper or study.
There may be a lot of things that people don’t know about Tim Hortons, though. That goes for Canadians, too! After all, they have always just seen it there. At least, that’s true for younger generations. Older Canadians could probably still remember a time when there were no Tim Hortons. but they would have to go back quite a long way. Tim Hortons has always seemed like it was there forever. As if, upon confederation in 1867, there was a Tim Hortons that sprung up right next to the first parliament. The truth is, though, that Tim Hortons has been around for less time than places like McDonald’s, and yet they have become so ingrained in the life of the average Canadian that it seems like they have always been there, dependably doling out donuts and coffee. These are the top ten untold truths of Tim Hortons.
10. Tim Horton was a hockey player
Tim Hortons, as anyone will tell you, has always been a purely Canadian tradition. Despite the fact that the chain has spread out around the world (more on that later), it remains a staple of the Canadian identity. People in Canada might know where the name came from, but other people in other countries might just be wondering, “who is this Tim Horton, and why was he so fond of coffee and donuts?” Well, we’re here to tell you that Tim Horton’s job only adds to the overall Canadian vibe of this famous coffee shop: he was a hockey player.
It’s true! Tim Horton was a professional hockey player in the NHL who was best known for his time on the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team on which he spent 20 years as a player. Late in his career, he was signed by the Buffalo Sabres, despite his age and increasing nearsightedness. He was given a car as a signing incentive to stay on the team, and it was this car in which Tom Horton would crash and lose his life on the QEW just outside of St. Catharines, Ontario. Tim Horton is remembered as more than just a Coffee and donut shop founder. He was named one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history and remains one of the most recognizable names in Canadian history for both his business ventures and his time playing in the NHL.
9. They used to sell burgers
When most people think about Tim Hortons these days they probably think, “well, that’s the place to go and get a coffee or a donut or a muffin.” Of course, the chain has expanded its menu quite a bit from the old days, and now serves its own breakfast, soups, sandwiches, potato wedges, and other typical fast food items. However, the one they don’t seel is what they started out serving, and that’s burgers!
That’s right! When Tim Horton and Jim Charade founded their first restaurant venture, Horton was more interested in selling burgers than slinging coffee and donuts. The two formed a company called Timandjim Ltd. and opened their very first burger joint in North Bay, Ontario. It was simply called “Tim Horton Char-Broiled Hamburgers,” and though it didn’t last very long or continue to be the Tim Hortons business model, it is considered by some to be the first Tim Hortons ever opened. This was a big deal to people who lived in Hamilton, Ontario, where the first “real” Tim Hortons opened in 1964. It has always been a point of pride in Hamilton that it is the place where Tim Hortons was born. However, since North Bay has begun to dispute that fact, there has been a very big (but polite) disagreement over who had the real “first” Tim Hortons.
8. Roll Up the Rim Was… Not So Great
There comes a time every year in Canada where Tim Hortons introduces a contest, one that gets everyone coming in through their doors and buying coffee in droves. This magical time of year is called Roll up the Rim, and though winning one of the grand prizes (which include televisions, pre-paid visa cards, and cars) is fairly rare, there is always the chance that you could win a free coffee or donut, so it’s not so bad either way!
Of course, most of the time you just end up getting the dreaded “please play again” cup, taunting you with its suggestion of buying another coffee just to see if maybe this time you’ll get the Rav4. Of course, even having a slim chance of winning a car is better than not having a chance at all. That’s what it would have been like in the early days of Roll up the Rim, where the grand prize was (wait for it)… a pack of Timbits. Yeah, so, not really all that exciting. Obviously, things got a little bit better over time, but back in the day, winning those Timbits might have also been really exciting. What do we know? Even winning a pack of Timbits today would be pretty cool, considering how often your cup is just a loser that gets tossed away. As a bonus fact, sometimes people forget to roll up their rim and end up throwing away a winning cup. This has even led to some legal challenges in Canada!
7. The missing apostrophe was due to language laws
By the way, we’re not making a mistake about how to spell Tim Hortons. “Where’s the apostrophe?” you might be asking. “Do these people not understand how to write possessive?” First of all, yes we do. Second, the lack of an apostrophe has to do with some historic laws in Canada. It’s definitely not a mistake that everyone missed early on and decided not to fix. After all, Canadians are just as smart as anyone else, obviously. The lack of a possessive apostrophe comes from a little dispute that took place in Quebec. See, Quebec is a Canadian province where French is the predominant language. It’s the main reason why everything in Canada has to be in both English and French, no matter where you are. The Parti Quebecois passed bill 101 in 1977, making French the official language of Quebec. This forbade businesses from advertising in English, meaning all signage had to be in French. Companies with English names would have to change their names to the French versions in Quebec.
The business was actually originally called Tim Horton’s, with the apostrophe, but it was removed so that the company would not have to rebrand themselves in a different province. Without the anglicizing apostrophe, the name Tim Hortons technically did not break any language laws. It might just grate on some grammar enthusiasts out there. Either way, we all know what they mean, so people have just made their peace with it.
6. It has locations outside of Canada (and the US)
Tim Hortons used to be an exclusively Canadian thing. In fact, it was one of Canada’s most defining features, even getting a bit of a guest spot in How I Met Your Mother. However, in the last few years, there has been a push to bring Tim Hortons locations to the United States. While most states still don’t have a Tim Hortons within their borders, they are particularly prominent in New York state, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
However, Tim Hortons has not stopped in the United States. In fact, they have set their sights much farther and have even opened locations in the Middle East. They have 19 locations in the United Arab Emirates. They have also expanded into Oman and Saudi Arabia. They plan to open even more locations in Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. They also already have locations in Europe, primarily in the UK. These include locations in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. They have also opened up two new locations in Madrid, where along with the standard Tim Hortons drinks everyone knows, they also sell Mediterranean-style drinks. It really does seem like Tim Hortons is going to keep growing, and it certainly has come a long way since its early days of slinging coffee and donuts on a street in Hamilton, Ontario. At this rate, soon almost every country in the world will be able to see what all the fuss is about over the famous Tim Hortons coffee. They might even get to try a dozen of their famous donuts!
5. Tim Hortons made Canada the biggest donut-consuming country
Americans may think they love their donuts, what with their Krispy Kremes and their Dunkin donuts, but the truth is that they don’t even touch Canada when it comes to donut consumption. Canada is the leading consumer of donuts in the entire world, and Tim Hortons might be to thank (or blame, depending on where you stand on fried dough) for that. After all, there is a Tim Hortons pretty much anywhere you go in Canada, and they always have donuts ready to go as soon as you walk in.
Donuts have become a huge part of Canadian culture particularly when it comes to food. Sure, there’s maple syrup and poutine and beaver tails, but donuts are also just a huge part of what makes being a Canadian so special. After all, donuts are the perfect snack for almost any large gathering, and getting a dozen of them from Tim Hortons is pretty easy. They please everyone, and there are rarely any leftovers since every donut from Tim Hortons is so tasty! On top of the regular donuts, there are also the Timbits, which keep the count up even higher. So there you have it. Americans might be thinking that this information is wrong, but it is the truth. Canadians eat way more donuts than anybody. “well,” Americans might think, “we must at least be second in the world when it comes to donut consumption!” That is also not true. Canada may come first, but the country that is a close second? Japan!
4. Timbits were invented 42 years ago
In the United States, the middle part that gets cut out of the donut is also thrown in the fryer and called a donut hole. Well, that’s cute, but Canadians know the truth: those little balls of dough are Timbits. They have never been anything else but Timbits in Canada, and they will be Timbits for the rest of time. No one really knows who was making donut holes first, but one thing is for sure: for Canadians, Timbits are almost as important as the donuts themselves.
After all, when you’re going on a long car ride and you need some donuts but have to keep your hands on the wheel, Timbits are there for you. The small, square box fits perfectly on the center console of any car and can be easily passed around so everyone can get one. Timbits originally started out as the middle of the donut being thrown into the frying oil so nothing was wasted, but over time, they became their own thing. There are so many different flavors of Timbit that it would be impossible to go through all of them. Needless to say, everybody has a favorite, and the folks there definitely won’t mind if you ask for 20 of the same kind (chocolate being the predominantly popular one). Timbits are a cultural staple of Canada and have become such a part of Canadian vernacular that trying to sell the donut balls as anything else has just never worked. Tim Hortons also sponsors peewee hockey leagues, and uses the word Timbits as a name, to denote the small hockey players, who might grow up to be the next Tim Horton!
3. The double-double is now in the dictionary
When people talk about Tim Hortons, it’s almost impossible not to mention grabbing a “double-double.” Of course, to the folks out on the West Coast, this will seem very strange. After all, to them, a double-double is a double cheeseburger with two slices of cheese at In-N-Out. In Canada, though, double-double refers to getting a coffee with two creams and two sugars. It originated as a way to order coffee at Tim Hortons, but it has since spread out to other businesses who recognize what people are asking for when they order a double-double from them. The term has become so entwined in Canadian culture that it even got that most prestigious of honors, being added to the Canadian Oxford dictionary. For those of you who grew up in the digital age, a dictionary was a big book that had pages upon pages of words and their definitions. Sometimes it would even tell you the antonyms and synonyms of that word (although another book called a thesaurus would usually be the one to do a better job of that).
Along with the double-double, there were other way s to order your coffee. If you just wanted one cream and one sugar, you could order your coffee as a “regular.” Then there were the orders that went beyond a double-double, like a triple-triple, and the truly terrible 4×4, which would essentially mean you were drinking a cup of sweetened cream with a hint of coffee flavor. Gross.
2. It is the number one fast food chain in Canada
Canada has plenty of fast food to choose from. Almost as much as the United States, in fact! Sure, Canadians won’t ever really know the joy of In-N-Out or Shake Shack or some of the other famous fast food places like Hardee’s or Jack in the Box, but there’s plenty to choose from, including some purely Canadian chains such as Harvey’s (great burgers and onion rings!) and Mr. Sub (like Subway, but definitely way better!).
So it might not be a surprise to learn that Tim Hortons is still the number one fast food chain in Canada. That’s not entirely surprising. The chain is entirely ubiquitous. Remember all those jokes in the early 2000s about how there was a Starbucks on every corner in the United States? Canada was already like that, but with Tim Hortons. Sometimes, you could drive through an intersection where there was one on every corner. We’re not kidding! It’s the place Canadians go to get coffee, and when they need to bring donuts or muffins or bagels in for their coworkers, they don’t go anywhere else. Now that Tim Hortons has expanded their menu even further to include more fast food staples, there’s no way it will stop growing. It’s already the number one choice for most Canadians when it comes to getting a nice hot cup of coffee or a baked good, and it’s definitely going away any time soon.
1. It has a location near the Arctic Circle
You might be wondering just how far Tim Hortons can go. Well, we’re here to tell you that along with all of its worldwide locations, Tim Hortons also has locations in some of the most remote Canadian regions. After all, even people who are so far up north that they have to get their groceries shipped to them on a plane need to have their coffee and donuts. That’s why there is even a Tim Hortons in Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian territory Nunavut.
That town is located just slightly south of the Arctic Circle, making its Tim Hortons location the northernmost location in the entire world! It can get pretty cold up there, so clearly the coffee needs to be as hot as possible. Nunavut is the youngest of all the Canadian provinces and territories, having officially come into existence in 1999. It just goes to show that really, no matter where you are in Canada you can find your way to a Tim Hortons and get that double-double you’ve been craving. It seems like Tim Hortons is going to just keep growing and will soon be a part of the fabric of other nations, not just Canada. What is beautiful about Tim Hortons is that they genuinely want everyone to experience what it’s like to have a cup of that famous Tim Hortons coffee and one of their delicious donuts (or a box of Timbits).