I’ll probably agitate every culinary connoisseur with this post, but it has to be said… Of all cups of hot chocolate I tasted in my life – and there are many! – the best one wasn’t Belgian nor Swiss nor Italian (Italy came close though), but Canadian. Outrageous? I haven’t told you the worst part yet: I had it at a fast food shop!
After driving 7,000 kilometers through Canada, one thing you learn is the names of all the fast food chains and supermarkets in the country… and Tim Hortons is one of them. It’s the largest Canadian fast food chain (coffee & donuts especially) with even more branches than McDonald’s. From the large metropolises like Toronto to sleepy and unpretentious towns along the Ontario river in the south of the country: there’s always a Tim Hortons around.
Okay, not the whole of Canada is as ‘dotted’ with Tim Hortons as Ontario, since this is the home state of the chain. But even then, the red dots are pretty overwhelming! Just for that reason my travel companion and I had refused to give in to the ‘Always Fresh’ call of the chain. But then, we had the long return from Quebec to Toronto ahead of us. Our car wipers were working overtime, our GPS had said “Lost satellite reception” one too many times and our detour along the ‘1000 Islands Parkway’ wasn’t much of success (according to the guides the route is supposed to be spectacular, but it was nothing more than a boring straight track full of tall trees and shrubs, concealing the spectacular villas. I’m sure they had fantastic private gardens overlooking the thousands of islands, but we didn’t!). The need for a comforting cuppa hot chocolate imposed itself, Tim Hortons or not! And unlike the tourist information centres around here, Tim Hortons is very easy to find.
You gotta love Timmie
Canadians are pretty fond of their Tim ‘Timmie’ Hortons. In the morning, people are queuing in large numbers to have a takeaway coffee. The change of Tim Hortons cup sizes even made the national headlines…
It even got parodied:
D for double and delicious
D for double and delicious
So yes, we eventually gave in. The interior of the Tim Hortons shops is a wee bit classier than your average fast food chain, where most of the times it all looks like an amusement park has exploded in there. No flashy billboards, no doors, chairs and stairways in lollipop colors. At first we wanted to try a Double-Double (coffee with ‘double cream and double sugar’ – the expression is invented by Tim Hortons and is even included in the Oxford dictionary!), but as the queue got shorter, we succumbed to a hot chocolate. If there are unwritten rules about how a cup of instant hot chocolate should taste like, I’m sure this is exactly what the norm would be: rich and creamy, warm and delicious. It’s the slogan of the brand and I concur. A rich cocoa flavor, creamy but not too creamy and a ‘soft texture’: I wasn’t even sure what that meant until I took a nip. We left the shop with a Tim Hortons chocolate powder can: 500 grams takeout taste sensation! The taste is way better than the nutritional values though (Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C: 0%, Fiber: 0% and 120 calories per 2 tablespoons) but that’s not really your primary concern when you drink hot chocolate, right …