OK , Let's settle this once and for all: What's the best coffee in the GTA : Starbucks? Second Cup? Tim Horton's? Timothy's? Coffee Time? Or perhaps some non-franchise product?
I'm talking regular brewed, hot, coffee here; not fancy lattes etc. etc. (or perhaps there is there no significant difference?)
You'll get as many opinions as you there are types of coffee, since everyone has their preferences. I'm no connoisseur, but I do find the chain drip stuff (Tim's, Coffee Time) pretty bland and tasteless unless you load it with tons of cream and sugar, which I don't. And I dislike Starbuck's because their coffee tends to be very over-roasted and acidic, hard on my stomach. Certain Second Cup locations are passable in a pinch, but generally I prefer the independents, where my normal order is an Americano.
The independent places vary greatly so it's hard to generalize about them. Some popular ones like Balzac's have gone the Starbucksy dark roast route, so those that enjoy that sort of coffee love them, but I don't (Balzac's locations win on decor, though, if that matters!) Others like Dark Horse seem to vary a lot between visits and locations: I've had decent Dark Horse coffees and undrinkable awful ones.
On the whole my standbys are The Black Canary (formerly Bisogno), Fahrenheit, and Merchants of Green for the eastern part of downtown, Mercury when in Leslieville, and Jimmy's and Moonbean when I occasionally stray west to Queen St or Kensington. I've never had a bad coffee at any of those places.
Believe it or not, my fave coffee comes from a little bagel place at Bathurst and Steeles. Kiva's. My goodness their coffee beats the snot out of any of the coffee places not only in TO but anywhere I've ever travelled. I don't know what they do but it's smooth, rich, tasty and totally addictive. I like to call it the 'crack' of coffee..............hehehe
I think you are going to find as many opinions as there are coffee chain locations. I used to drink a lot of chain coffee, but then turned into a coffee connaisseur after a while in Australia (where they really know how to make good coffee). So now I rarely drink it out as I find I am really picky now. I now my own small home roaster and roast my own beans from all over the world, which I buy wholesale, but I'll throw my own two cents in anyway as I've tasted pretty well everything there is in Toronto multiple times.
Starbucks - The filtered coffee has, in the past, been way to strong. In the past they have come out with filtered coffee that isn't as strong, which I can finally stomach. I think they are way over-priced (and don't get me started on their weak latte's that always have to have an extra shot, or two).
Tim Horton's - Probably my 'go to' coffee chain when I just have to have that coffee taste in my mouth and Crema Coffee (below) or a cup at my house is not available. A decent cup, but nothing fantastic. It's inexpensive, pleases most people and is kind of any 'everymans' coffee, if you will.
Second Cup - I find the quality varies, it's often burnt and often stale. I avoid it.
Timothy's - A decent cup. Probably my second choice after Tim Horton's if I want a bit of 'ambience' compared to Tim Horton's, for lack of a better word
Coffee Time - I won't even grace them with an opinion
I think the best cup of coffee you can get in Toronto is the capuccino at Crema Coffee. It is the closest thing here to what Australian's call a 'flat white' which is kind of like a long espresso (but doesn't taste as strong as one) with a layer of milk 'microfoam' on top. This is the primary cup of coffee that people order all over Australia and which is prepared for you separately, as opposed to bulk filtered coffee. Crema trains their barista's exceptionally well, they use ethically sourced high quality roasted beans, they change the blades on their burr grinders a few times a year, they filter their water using two different processes and then remixes the filtered water to get the perfect water for coffee making, etc etc. I mean, NOBODY does this in Toronto as far as I know, certainly not the coffee chains. And, their a cup of their capuccino is not overpriced at about $3.50 with tax. Too bad there are only four locations.
Sadly, I hate to sound arrogant, but when you go to a country like Australia you realize that people here don't even know what a good cup of coffee tastes like as they have never really experienced it. Our senses have been dulled by all of these chains with their so-so filtered coffee.
Really?No love at all for Coffee Time?(or Coffee Lime as I've seen one renamed)
I'll admit that most of the GTA locations are a bit skeezy(both in looks and local) but the one at Eglinton & Oriole Parkway(recently closed :( ) was clean and made a pretty decent cuppa coffee,way better than Timmies,I know that's not saying much