The 10 Best Coffee Chains in Canada

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 18 Sep 2023

a group of hands holding cups of coffee

    Coffee plays a vital role in the lives of many Canadians, serving as a morning energizer, an afternoon pick-me-up, and even a source of national pride. In a country known for its varied regions and sprawling distances, finding a reliable spot for that essential cup becomes more than just a casual desire—it’s a daily necessity. Our guide focuses on the top 10 coffee chains across Canada.

    How We Made Our Choice

    Our selection criteria are based on factors like widespread availability, affordability, and overall quality of experience.

    Convenience: Why Bigger is Often Better

    When it comes to ease of access, large coffee chains often have the upper hand. Their numerous locations make it simple for anyone to find a dependable cup of coffee, whether they’re in a bustling metropolitan area or a quieter locale.

    Budget Considerations: Quality and Affordability

    The chains we’ve chosen offer a happy medium between quality and cost, delivering a satisfying coffee experience without putting a dent in your wallet.

    Why No Small Boutiques or Artisan Shops?

    Third-wave coffee shops undoubtedly offer some of the finest coffee experiences available, but their limited locations make them less suitable for a guide aimed at widespread accessibility. We did not include them in our ranking, as our aim is to highlight chains that most Canadians can easily locate and enjoy, regardless of where they are in the country.

    We hope this guide will help you find your next go-to coffee spot, no matter where you find yourself in Canada.

    Tim Hortons

    Tim Hortons holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians, seamlessly intertwining itself with the country’s national identity since its inception in 1964. Founded by hockey legend Tim Horton, this chain has evolved from a humble Hamilton-based coffee and donut shop into a coast-to-coast phenomenon. With more than 3,500 locations across Canada, Tim Hortons is often the go-to choice for many seeking a quick caffeine fix or a simple yet satisfying meal.

    What sets Tim Hortons apart is its focus on consistency and accessibility. Whether you’re in Vancouver or St. John’s, you can expect the same signature taste in every cup of their Original Blend Coffee—a medium-roast blend that strikes a fine balance between strength and smoothness. The chain’s broad menu, featuring everything from the iconic Timbits and classic donuts to bagels, sandwiches, and the beloved “Double Double” (coffee with two sugars and two creams), ensures there’s something for everyone. No matter where you are in Canada, you’re likely to find a Tim Hortons nearby, serving up the familiar flavors you know and love.

    Additionally, Tim Hortons’ affiliate brand, Tims Financial, provides Canadians with more opportunities to incorporate the Tim Hortons brand into their daily routines through the Tims Credit Card. With this card, you can earn up to 5 points for every dollar spent on everyday essentials and then redeem the points in exchange for popular items on the Tim Hortons menu. What’s more, when you spend at Tim Hortons stores, you can get a whopping 15 points per dollar spent. This equates to one free donut, hashbrown, or cookie for every $20 you spend at Tim Hortons stores.

    Number of locations in Canada: +3500

    Provinces in they are available in: All provinces

    Rewards program: Tims Rewards

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    Starbucks Cafes

    Starbucks brings its global reputation for quality coffee to the Canadian scene, offering a wide variety of brews that range from the classic Americano to seasonal and specialty lattes. With locations sprouting up in major cities and small towns alike, Starbucks provides a sense of familiarity and consistency that appeals to many Canadian visitors.

    Unlike many other chains, Starbucks invests heavily in the atmosphere of its locations. With its modern, cozy interiors often featuring free Wi-Fi and ample seating, each Starbucks aims to create a ‘third place’ between home and work—a space where you can relax, work, or socialize.

    On the coffee front, the chain is known for sourcing high-quality, ethically produced beans for its drinks. The menu offers a plethora of options, accommodating everyone from the black-coffee purist to those with a penchant for flavored, frothy concoctions. Its customizable approach means you can tailor each drink to your specific liking, a feature that sets it apart from many other chains. Whether you’re in need of a caffeine boost or a comfortable place to unwind, Starbucks offers a universally recognizable standard of quality.

    Starbucks also has a rewards program in Canada offering a unique and enticing loyalty experience to coffee enthusiasts. Members earn 1 Star for every purchase $1 spent on Starbucks orders, which can be redeemed for free drinks, food items, or merchandise. This program encourages customer loyalty through personalized offers, early access to new products, and a seamless mobile app for easy ordering and tracking.

    But what really sets the Starbucks Rewards program apart is its partnership with the Aeroplan rewards program. Customers can link their Starbucks and Aeroplan accounts to double-dip on rewards. When making purchases with one of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada, you can earn Aeroplan points and 50% more Stars at Starbucks. This means earning both Starbucks Stars and Aeroplan points simultaneously, offering coffee lovers and travelers an exciting opportunity to enjoy their favorite beverages while accumulating travel rewards.

    Number of locations in Canada: +1400

    Provinces in they are available in: All provinces

    Rewards program: Starbucks Rewards

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    McCafé

    McCafé, the coffee-focused arm of McDonald’s, has become a staple in the Canadian coffee scene, offering a wide array of quality brews. The menu, featuring 100% Arabica beans, extends beyond the basics of drip coffee to include lattes, cappuccinos, and seasonal specialties, satisfying a diverse range of coffee lovers.

    The interior design of McCafé locations distinguishes them from their fast-food counterparts. The spaces are modern and clean, designed to give patrons a different, more upscale coffee experience. But perhaps McCafé’s most compelling feature is its commitment to affordable quality. The chain offers a range of coffees that don’t compromise on taste but are still friendly to your wallet.

    Most McCafé locations are integrated into existing McDonald’s restaurants, providing a convenient coffee fix for fast-food patrons. However, in a sign of its evolving brand, McCafé opened a standalone location at Montreal’s International Airport in July 2023, further expanding its reach and making it even more convenient for both domestic and international travelers to grab a quality cup of coffee on the go.

    Number of locations in Canada: +1300

    Provinces in they are available in: All provinces

    Rewards program: MyMcDonald’s Rewards

    Country Style Cafes

    Country Style Cafes have been a part of the Canadian coffee culture for years, boasting over 1000 locations across the country. Rooted in tradition, this chain is a familiar sight in many communities, offering a comfortable and unpretentious atmosphere where locals can enjoy a cup of coffee and casual dining options.

    When it comes to coffee, Country Style keeps it straightforward yet satisfying. The menu features classic brews, like drip coffee, as well as popular espresso-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. For those looking for something different, Country Style also offers a variety of flavored coffees and iced beverages to suit varying tastes.

    The interiors often evoke a rustic, homey vibe, making them ideal locations for casual meet-ups or a quiet moment alone with your coffee. The chain focuses on creating an accessible and relaxed environment, often featuring ample seating and community boards.

    While it may not be pushing the envelope in terms of specialty or third-wave coffee, Country Style offers a dependable and cozy space for a good cup of joe. In a market filled with coffee giants, Country Style Cafes stand as a comforting, familiar option for Canadians.

    Number of locations in Canada: +1000

    Provinces in they are available in: All provinces

    Rewards program: CS Perks

    Second Cup Cafes

    Second Cup Cafes have long been a staple in Canada’s coffee scene, with over 350 locations nationwide. Known for its diverse menu and quality ingredients, Second Cup offers more than just the basic coffee fix. From traditional espresso drinks to its signature FroCho frozen chocolate, the chain presents a wide array of choices designed to please both coffee purists and those looking for a unique treat.

    Quality is a top priority at Second Cup, and this is evident in their sourcing of high-quality beans and artisanal brewing techniques. Many of their locations feature a contemporary and inviting design, which includes comfortable seating and warm lighting, creating a welcoming atmosphere that encourages customers to relax and linger.

    Customer experience is another area where Second Cup shines. The staff are generally knowledgeable and happy to offer recommendations, and the cafe often hosts community events, adding a social dimension to your coffee-drinking experience.

    Despite the ever-growing competition in Canada’s coffee market, Second Cup Cafes manage to maintain a loyal customer base. The chain’s focus on quality brews, a wide variety of beverages, and a comfortable atmosphere makes it a go-to spot for many Canadians looking for a great cup of coffee.

    Number of locations in Canada: +350

    Provinces in they are available in: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland

    Rewards program: The Café Club

    Robin’s Donuts Cafes

    Robin’s Donuts Cafes might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of Canadian coffee chains, but this underdog has carved out its own space in the coffee arena. With a more traditional and laid-back atmosphere, Robin’s Donuts offers an alternative to the bustling, modern coffee shops that have saturated the market.

    The coffee menu at Robin’s is straightforward but solid, featuring all the classics like drip coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos, along with a variety of iced coffee options. One of the draws of this chain is its commitment to simplicity and good, honest coffee, without the fanfare of seasonal specials or intricate latte art.

    But don’t let the basic menu fool you. The chain has a reputation for serving reliable, hot cups of coffee that hit the mark, especially for customers who prefer a no-fuss approach to their caffeine fix.

    What sets Robin’s Donuts Cafes apart is its commitment to offering a straightforward, satisfying coffee experience. In a market that can sometimes feel overwhelming with its multitude of choices and trending flavors, Robin’s offers a return to coffee basics that many Canadians appreciate.

    Number of locations in Canada: +160

    Provinces in they are available in: All provinces except Quebec

    Rewards program: None

    Esquires Coffee

    Esquires Coffee is a lesser-known but steadily growing presence in Canada’s coffee scene. With its commitment to organic, Fair Trade coffee, Esquires caters to a conscious clientele without sacrificing taste or quality. The menu offers an array of options from basic drip coffee to more exotic beverages like chai lattes and matcha green tea, giving patrons a diverse range to choose from.

    The atmosphere inside an Esquires Coffee store is often noted for its coziness and community feel. Wooden accents, comfy chairs, and a relaxed ambiance make it a popular choice for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a place where you can bring a book, have a business meeting, or catch up with friends in a quieter setting.

    Service is a highlight at Esquires, with friendly and knowledgeable staff making sure customers have a pleasant experience. Though it may not have the wide reach or aggressive marketing of other major chains, Esquires has cultivated a devoted following.

    What makes Esquires stand out in a crowded coffee market is its commitment to ethical sourcing and its variety of high-quality beverages. It’s a great spot for Canadians who care about where their coffee comes from but still crave a satisfying brew.

    Number of locations in Canada: +10

    Provinces in they are available in: Alberta, British Columbia

    Rewards program: None

    Timothy’s World Coffee Cafes

    Timothy’s World Coffee Cafes have carved out a niche for themselves in Canada’s coffee landscape by offering a broad spectrum of globally sourced, high-quality coffee blends. Timothy’s has always focused on delivering a robust flavor profile, inviting patrons to take a world tour through coffee, one cup at a time.

    With options ranging from single-origin brews to flavored coffees and a variety of espresso-based drinks, Timothy’s provides choices for both the coffee aficionado and the casual sipper. Seasonal blends and limited-time offers keep the menu fresh and exciting, while also catering to those who have their tried-and-true favorites.

    The ambiance in Timothy’s cafes generally skews towards the cozy and intimate, with warm lighting and comfortable seating that encourages lingering. Customer service is a strong point; the staff is known for being friendly, attentive, and capable of whipping up your drink just the way you like it.

    In a marketplace with fierce competition, Timothy’s World Coffee Cafes distinguish themselves by combining quality, variety, and a cozy atmosphere. Their approach makes them a beloved spot for Canadians who appreciate a great cup of coffee coupled with a comfortable setting.

    Number of locations in Canada: +40

    Provinces in they are available in: Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edwards Island, Quebec

    Rewards program: None

    COFFEE CULTURE

    COFFEE CULTURE is a relatively new entrant in Canada’s extensive list of coffee chains but has rapidly gained popularity for its modern take on the traditional coffee shop. Unlike the no-frills approach of many other chains, COFFEE CULTURE aims to provide a comprehensive experience. This isn’t just a place for a quick caffeine fix; it’s a lifestyle destination.

    The coffee menu at COFFEE CULTURE is expansive, offering classic drip coffee, artisanal espresso drinks, and an array of flavored lattes and cold brews. The quality of the coffee is high, often featuring beans sourced from reputable suppliers and brewed with care.

    The interiors are chic and contemporary, with a vibe that’s both stylish and inviting. Free Wi-Fi and plenty of seating options make it a popular spot for freelancers and students looking for a workspace that comes with great coffee.

    In a relatively short time, COFFEE CULTURE has made a mark by blending high-quality beverages with an appealing ambiance. Its modern approach to the classic coffee shop experience has garnered it a growing and devoted clientele, solidifying its place in Canada’s coffee scene.

    Number of locations in Canada: +10

    Provinces in they are available in: Ontario, Manitoba

    Rewards program: None

    Cafés Van Houtte

    Cafés Van Houtte is a stalwart in Canada’s coffee industry, steeped in history that dates back to 1919. With a European flair that sets it apart from many of its North American counterparts, this chain offers a unique coffee experience. The atmosphere often mimics the quaint charm of a Parisian café, complete with intricate woodwork and tasteful decor.

    When it comes to coffee, Cafés Van Houtte takes a traditional approach, with a focus on well-executed classics like espresso, café au lait, and cappuccinos. Their selection is broad, but the emphasis is always on quality and authenticity. For those who prefer something different, the menu also offers an array of teas and specialty beverages.

    Despite the air of sophistication, Cafés Van Houtte is very approachable, both in terms of its atmosphere and its pricing. The staff are well-trained and eager to help customers navigate the menu if needed.

    Over the years, Cafés Van Houtte has managed to preserve its distinct identity while also evolving to meet modern tastes. The combination of its historic charm, high-quality coffee, and accessible experience make it a strong contender in Canada’s competitive coffee market.

    Number of locations in Canada: +30

    Provinces in they are available in: Quebec, Ontario

    Rewards program: Café Van Houtte Rewards

    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications