Coffee culture continues to grow

As Tim Hortons’ corporate offices announced it was closing 36 stores and 18 kiosks in New England, a new shop opened in Cobourg on Elgin Street.

This brings the total number of Tim Hortons shops to three in a town of nearly 18,000 people. It is hard to believe the new one opened up just by looking at the long lines still frequenting the two older stores on William and Division streets.

Still, Cobourg is only catching up to Port Hope, where there have been three locations for quiet some time.

Don’t feel bad for the Canadian corporate giant. It continues to be a major economic powerhouse with third quarter revenues up nearly 10 per cent over expectations. It made $670.5 million according to reports last week, up from the $633 million it forecast earlier in the year.

Such numbers are not surprising if Northumberland County is any example. A new shop was opened in Colborne earlier this year. Drive by any franchise in the morning in Port Hope or Campbellford and the line-ups are constantly backed up. There is even talk a Tim Hortons is coming to Brighton, but there is no confirmation.

Certainly, Tim’s is a major force in the marketplace, but there is plenty of local competition. Besides all the other franchises, like McDonalds, Coffee Time and Starbucks, there are homegrown contenders like 66 King Street West, the Human Bean, Dreamer’s CafĂ© and Table Talk, among a long list of others. The competition is fierce. McDonalds is giving away coffee this week as a promotion.

At times, it is hard to understand what is going on. Making coffee is not that hard. Tablespoon of freeze-dried in a cup. Add boiling water. Stir.

Or, you could get fancy and put a filter in a machine. Add a couple tablespoons of fresh ground beans. Pour cold water in the holding tank. Plug it in. Presto! A pot of coffee.

That seems to be a chore these days. Hardly, when you think about it. So, why do so many people purchase coffee and tea from these shops?

There is no doubt coffee is Canada’s number one beverage, according to the Coffee Association of Canada. In 2003, 63 per cent of Canadians drank at least one cup a day. Today, that number is 88 per cent, according to a study done by Ipsos Reid announced on Nov. 12.

Yet, it does not seem like it is really about the beverage as much as it is about people getting together with friends and talking over a cup. Coffee was first served in a public place in 1475 in Turkey. It became a fashionable drink in Europe about 1529 and came to Britain in 1652.

Those coffee houses performed the same function as they do today. They were places where everyday people gathered to exchange ideas and talk about what was going on in their world. In fact, there is an urban legend that says Edward Lloyd started a coffee shop and so many business people visited it, he started his famous insurance company as a complimentary enterprise that we now know as Lloyds of London.

Long before the snotty private clubs and exclusive gathering places, people gathered in coffee shops. We still do it. No doubt there are likely many studies that would point to other social and cultural trends, along with marketing and retail experts that would explain the success and failure of coffee shops.

So, here’s an idea: wouldn’t be a better idea to have municipalities open a coffee shop somewhere in town rather than building and supporting recreation centres for seniors. And, just think of all the money waiting to be made. And, I bet municipal politicians would finally address the issue of senior services rather than keep skating around it.

One thought on “Coffee culture continues to grow

  1. Hi Rob – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    I don’t mean to pick – but I believe you’re understated the local Timmy presence by 25%.

    There are 2 on Division St North, 1 on William and the new one you mentioned. A total of 4.

    I think it’s “swarm marketing” (my term) = interesting to watch …

    Cheers Dave

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