Tim Hortons Roasting Facility Tour - A Coffee for All Seasons | Toronto Teacher Mom

Tim Hortons Roasting Facility Tour - A Coffee for All Seasons

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Photo courtesy of Ted Chai Photography
It was a lovely Tuesday evening in late June when I accompanied a group of fellow coffee lovers on a limo ride to the Tim Hortons roasting facility in Ancaster, Ontario. For the first time ever, they opened the doors for an exclusive private tour of the 2.5-year-old plant in the hopes of informing and educating not only "how coffee at Tim Hortons is made but also the story behind how important quality and consistency is at Tim Hortons." What I soon discovered is the amount of time and dedication that is invested in assuring each cup of java delivers a rich and consistent taste regardless of what each season may bring.

The Tim Hortons roasting facility boasts 75,000 in square footage and houses advanced manufacturing equipment designed by German world leaders. Processing roughly 1.5 million pounds of coffee beans each week, it was surprising to learn that you will find only 16 workers operating the equipment at any given time. It became very clear that safety is paramount within the plant as we were handed safety goggles and hair nets, asked to wear close-toed flats and to remove any jewelry before stepping foot on the main floor. Yellow lines on the ground marked the safest pathways while red lines indicated emergency routes towards the nearest exit.

Photo courtesy of Ted Chai Photography
At our first stop, we learned that Tim Hortons imports coffee beans from different countries all over the world, such as Brazil, Columbia and El Salvador, to name a few. After being cupped at origin, it is re-cupped upon shipment to ensure it is the same batch, and then weighed.

Each crate is given a unique bar code which relays information regarding its country of origin and the weather conditions around the time of harvest.

Did you know...?

The centre cut of a coffee bean can help identify the altitude at which the bean was cultivated.

Photo courtesy of Ted Chai Photography

On average, ten to 15 per cent of coffee beans are rejected if they are not up to snuff. The bags are then emptied into a sifting device which separates them from large debris. The coffee beans are lifted into one of many tubes via an air tube system controlled by a specially-designed computer program. Since the information identifying each bag full of beans is inputted into the system, the computer keeps track of which beans will combine to make the consistent blend of coffee for which Tim Hortons is known. Each blend could be slightly different from the next depending on whether the beans were harvested during a wet or dry season, for example. This means that your daily cup of Tims could contain beans from four to six different countries.

Roughly 1300 pounds of coffee beans are roasted at a time for about 12 minutes at 420 degrees F in a drum style roaster. The last step in the roasting process is the destoner which separates the coffee beans from any remaining foreign material. Using evaporation, the beans are cooled until the temperature reaches equilibrium, ground and then left to de-gas in non-oxygenated controlled conditions to avoid staling. Finally, the ground coffee is packaged into small pouches at break-neck speed and shuttled off in cardboard boxes faster than you can say, "I'll have a medium double-double with milk."

Along the way, pouches of coffee are removed from the line and submitted to an air-leak test where they are submerged in water and closely observed for air bubbles. Tim Hortons coffee takes about 12 hours to produce and it is not uncommon for it to be delivered within seven to eight days of production to over 4,000 locations in Canada and the United States.

Ever wonder how cardboard packaging is taped up so perfectly?

Coffee Tasting 101

Finally, after being tortured by the incredible aroma of freshly brewed coffee beans, we were invited to sit down at a circular tasting table to learn how the pros do it. Kevin West, Director of Coffee Operations at Tim Hortons, conducted a Coffee Tasting 101 where we learned about beans from all over the world.

Each of us sat in front of six bowls containing ground coffee from five different countries along with the infamous Tim Hortons blend. Hot water was added and allowed to steep, forming a crust on the surface.

Photo courtesy of Ted Chai Photography

We were directed to cut the crust with a spoon, bring our nose close to each bowl and deeply inhale each aroma in an attempt to identify the different flavours, which ranged from earthy to citrus. The crust was then removed and we were instructed to slurp the coffee so as to fully appreciate the unique flavours.
Over the years Tim Hortons has built its reputation and customer loyalty on coffee, from harvesting the world's finest grown beans to creating a proprietary blend that delivers a rich, consistent cup every time, making them a leader in the Canadian coffee business.

Finally, I was happy to learn that Tim Hortons supports sustainable coffee production in the Trifinio biosphere reserve which is located where El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras meet. Trifinio has been providing a series of programs and projects that support the management of natural resources as well as improve the quality of life among the inhabitants in the area by having implemented a strategy known as Agua sin fronteras.

We were sent home with freshly roasted coffee beans and a Tim Hortons coffee maker, which I wasted no time in putting to use. In fact, I ended up freezing any remaining coffee in ice cube trays for later use in a simple iced mocchaccino recipe. So good!

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  1. Wow, that must have been one amazing tour! So neat to learn about the beans and the process. No wonder I love Timmy's so much!

    And, I bet it must have smelled SO GOOD in there!!

    1. Tammi, it smelled like heaven! I have a newfound appreciation for the distinct flavor of Tim Hortons coffee.

  2. Oh my gosh!! How amazing!! I had no idea the process was so long, and love that they spot test some bags that way! Thanks for the inside peek!

    *Now must go get coffee :)

    1. It was pretty neat to see the high-tech facility which was filled with the glorious aroma of freshly roasted coffee.

      And you're welcome to come by for home-brewed Tim Hortons coffee whenever you'd like!

  3. Diana! Thank you so much for this lesson in coffee culture. It was amazing to catch an inside glimpse into the world of Tim Horton's - I honestly felt like I was right there on the tour with you. Amazing post!

    1. You're too kind, my dear Lena. It's a good thing I took notes because I would never have remembered all of these details. The aroma of coffee that filled the facility was a bit of a distraction.

  4. what a very neat tour you went on. now to go see the fields they grow in ;)

  5. Tim's coffee it's about the lowest grade coffee you can have.. time to open your eyes and mind and face the reality, this is marketing driven money making machine and not a high end family end coffee shop.. for God's sake, McDonalds coffee is 2 steps above ! Do a little experimanet, give a non Canadian some "coffee" from Tims and a Second Cup coffee and make them choose. Oh, and btw Second Cup is the true Canadian company here.. go figure !


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