We live in a fake world. Anyone who has gone on a handful of Tinder dates can tell you that sometimes the truth is subjective to your perspective. Social media, virtual reality, television shows, even certain political leaders, have turned us into a collectively skeptical bunch. Now more than ever, it’s important to question the world and structures around us, examine our principles, and realize how our world needs to face facts.
As a someone who lives in, and loves, the forward thinking metropolis that is Toronto, I like to think I have a firm grasp on these concepts. I like to think I have an open mind that questions the norm, stereotypes, and preconceptions. I lived quietly in my arrogant and pretentious self assurance, until one day that all came crashing down around me.
If you’re a millennial living in Toronto, you probably are no stranger to the $5 crafted coffees and lattes the city has to offer. Since you’re probably also not a stranger to $1000 rent cheques, you know that feeding a love of quality and affordable coffee on a regular basis usually means brewing it at home.
So imagine walking Queen street west with a super cute dog. Imagine it’s one of the first sunny days that Toronto has offered, and imagine that you see one of those sidewalk signs advertising lattes for $2.99. Here is where I think the Tim Horton’s marketing team truly nailed the trick. Those signs are like avocado toast to millennials. They validate our existence on social media. They use their moderately funny puns to scream small business, no-filter-required artisanal goods, and usually higher prices. When I passed that sign it’s exactly what I thought, except this time the price stopped me in my tracks. $3 for a good latte? That’s the dream, folks.
Now for context here, you should know that I work in coffee. I market various coffee brands and brewing methods for Home Coffee Solutions, and I’ve learned a lot about the industry in the process. While I’m certainly not as knowledgeable as a barista or professional roaster, I like to think I have the skills to know the differences between craft and commercial coffee. If you had asked me my thoughts on a Tim Horton’s latte before that day I know what I would have said. I’d have told you that if I was splurging on a latte, I would rather spend a few bucks more for one from a local coffee shop, or even from someone wearing a green apron. If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have been eager to try it.
Alright so back to the Queen street shop. The white minimalist design of this seemingly innocuous store was cool, and I immediately loved the concept. The store only offered one thing. A latte. That’s it. No modifications, no weird milks, no weird Italian-but-not-really-Italian names. I am all about simple orders. Fascinated, I watched the barista hand steam the milk and pour my very respectably sized latte into a white to-go cup. I paid on an iPad because nothing cool can be sold from a cash register, grabbed one of the offered loyalty cards, and went back to the sunshine 3 minutes after I had entered the store.
I have to say, I was really excited about what I called “Latte Place”. It made a great latte, it was in my area, and it was cheap. But most of all I loved that I could walk in, say “latte”, and be on my way in under 3 minutes. Before this place, a one word craft coffee order was unheard of.
Then, reality came. It was slow at first, I was on my way to work and saw a billboard for Tim Horton’s new latte. Later, I noticed how similar Tim’s branding was to “Latte Place”. Finally, I was eating dinner when I saw the The commercial that informed me I had been living in a carefully constructed virtual reality, and “Latte Place” was in fact a Tim Horton’s in hipster clothing. It was a brilliant marketing trick that worked on every level, and completely fooled me. I work in marketing and coffee and would never have guessed it was from Tim Horton’s. So much for questioning my preconceptions.
After doing the dishes, re-watching all of Black Mirror, and a minor existential crisis, I realized I was really impressed. Not only had Tim Horton’s proved to a minor coffee snob that they could make a great latte, they also showed me why I would prefer ordering their lattes on a day-to-day basis, and it wasn’t just about taste. What Tim Horton’s latte offers is the heart of Tim Horton’s as a company. They’ve taken the craft coffee that is native to downtown boutique stores, and made a great option available to everyone.
In a cup to cup contest I would still choose the local latte. This comes down to factors like ethically sourced beans, local business economics, and a crafted touch from roast to pour. So I haven’t given up my occasional splurge on craft lattes, but I have adopted the Tim Horton’s latte into my regular coffee routine as well.
It’s almost like assuming I knew I was right about something before knowing all the facts isn’t the best way to live.