The Perfect Bite: Which coffee chain has the best brew?

Hilary Hagerman
The Perfect Bite

Coffee is serious business here in Canada with a café on nearly every corner. But how do big chains measure up against each other?

On today’s episode of The Perfect Bite, host Andrea Jenner is joined by Sameer Mohamed, one of Canada’s top baristas and owner of Fahrenheit Coffee in Toronto, Ont., to find the best brew of the bunch when it comes to taste and caffeine.

Starbucks Pike Place Roast (Andrea and Sameer’s least favourite)

Andrea immediately notices that this is the darkest blend out of the ones they’re testing, and that isn’t the only thing she notices. The bitter taste hits her right away.

“It feels poorly brewed,” Sameer comments after taking a sip. “Essentially what this is is something called an over-extraction. So you’re getting a lot of bitterness that’s lingering on the back palate which is where your tongue is very sensitive.”

Sameer explains that while a darker coffee does have a stronger taste, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more caffeine.

“What you’re doing essentially when you’re roasting it is you’re cooking it longer, so what happens there is that you tend to burn off a bit more of the caffeine,” he explains. “So, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine it has.”

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Tim Hortons Premium Blend (Andrea’s favourite, Sameer’s second favourite)

“This is a little bit nutty, and it’s got a very nice sweetness to it,” Sameer comments.

“I could almost drink this as is,” Andrea, who usually drinks her coffee with cream and sugar, says. “It’s definitely better brewed (than the first one), and there’s a better balance.”

Sameer says if you’re craving a good caffeine buzz, this is the blend to go with.

“If you want a really strong coffee jolt, you should go with the lightest roast,” he explains. “I imagine that based on what we have here, it would be Tim Hortons.”

Also see: The Perfect Bite: Which brand of orange juice is the healthiest?

McDonald’s Premium Roast

Andrea and Sameer are both turned off by the weak taste of this blend.

“This one tastes really weak, like water almost with like a hint of coffee flavour” Andrea says.

“This is very, very watery,” Sameer agrees. “That’s all it really tastes like is like water and colour.”

Timothy’s World Coffee Breakfast Blend

“You feel like a brightness about it, like the acidity levels are really increased so it feels a bit more like a lemon,” Sameer comments.

Andrea agrees that there’s a bit of lemony flavour to this blend. “It’s like a coffee tea, if that makes sense,” she says.

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Second Cup Paradiso Medium (Sameer’s favourite)

After tasting a few coffee blends that didn’t do the trick, Andrea was a fan of this rich blend.

“This is richer, it’s like a coffee bean,” she says. “But still it’s not as heavy as the first one.”

Sameer agrees.

“It’s got a nice acidity about it," he says. The citrus is back in this one, and it’s got a better sweetness and feels silkier on the palette.”

While this coffee connoisseur is a fan of both the Tim Hortons blend and this one, Second Cup gets his vote.

How to choose the perfect cup of coffee

“You’re looking for the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness,” Sameer explains.

But when you’re trying to decide what kind of coffee to get, remember that it often comes down to what you like the most.

If you want a stronger taste, go for a darker brew. If you want a good dose of caffeine, the lighter the better.

And while many of us like our morning coffee with milk or cream and sugar, black coffee boasts some pretty impressive benefits.

“Coffee that’s been roasted for under a week will be very high in antioxidants,” Sameer explains. “In fact, tea is supposed to have really high antioxidant levels, but coffee actually goes above that when it’s freshly roasted.”

Who makes your favourite cup of joe? Let us know in the comments below.