Frozen bits of Tim

By Natalie Sit

What’s your favourite donut?

Like Homer, I prefer a sprinkle donut, or “vanilla dip” in Tim Hortons parlance. One friend prefers the gooey goodness of a Boston Cream while another likes a cruller. To each their own, I say.

The best sprinkle donut is from Tim Hortons. I don’t know why it’s the best, maybe their secret ingredient is love or perhaps MSG. Whatever it is, the best donuts are made by Tim Hortons and are “Always Fresh.”

Or are they?

A story broke that Tim Hortons’ donuty goodness was, in fact, no longer always fresh. The “Always Fresh” slogan is plastered throughout stores and all over the corporate website. But donuts are now fried, frozen and packaged in a factory in, gasp, Toronto, not baked in individual stores.

No longer a secret, store owners and employees are proclaiming donuts are “par-baked,” meaning partially baked, before reaching consumers’ mouths. And like the shadowy figures on X-Files, T-Ho’s PR people are vehemently denying any monkeying around with Canada’s favourite treat.

Unfortunately, it’s probably true.

There’s something special about freshly baked donuts. Rolling into a Timmy Ho’s after a night of drinking was bettered by the fresh racks of donuts, smelling of empty calories. You grab your favourite donut and gab well into the morning.

Now, knowing my donut was born in a mass-produced factory in Ontario dampens my joy. I used to swear the Tim Hortons by my house has the best crullers in the city. Now every cruller I eat will leave a stale Toronto-like taste in mouth.

Well, why the big hubbub about a donut? The reason lies in Tim Hortons’ history.

Tim Horton, the person not the store, was a Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman. He began an unsuccessful hamburger restaurant chain but switched to the coffee and donut idea.

Over the years, Tim Hortons has tried to expand past donuts. They tried chilli, muffins, pies, cinnamon buns, soups and macaroons. At one time, they wanted to open ice cream stores but it was deemed too seasonal. A soup and sandwich chain, Break Away, was a failure.

The lesson learned was Tim Hortons is in business to sell donuts. Horton himself created perennial donut favourites the apple fritter and the dutchie.

Now, Tim’s has incorporated soups and sandwiches, but donuts put the “D” in the Tim Hortons DNA. I cannot fathom a world where Tim Hortons does not sell donuts.

But the true nature of the uproar lies in the fact Tim Hortons has made a caffeine-and-carbohydrate-home in everyone’s heart. People have rituals involving the store. Rez students head to Tim’s. Many a problem is hashed out at the donut shop. Things wouldn’t go without the java jet fuel Tim Hortons provides.

You may moan, “it’s just a donut company.” However, Timmy Ho’s has wormed its way into the collective Canadian identity–and Canadian identity is a funny thing. We attach meaning to ideas and objects other countries rejected years ago, ideas Tim Hortons successfully exploits.

Remember the “Based on a true story…” commercials? From military ships to university students to the curling rink manager, they have an intimate connection with Tim’s, one most Canadians could relate to. I can’t put my finger on why it has happened. Perhaps it’s the hockey origins or the fact there’s a Tim Hortons on every corner. Whatever the reason, too much of a change will set our toques askew.

It’s funny to see the uproar surrounding a simple donut–a Canadian artifact. In fact, Tim Hortons has not been a Canadian-owned company since 1995 when it became a subsidiary of Wendy’s.

While this seems acceptable to our myths, mass-producing donuts apparently pushed too far. So, if we complain long and loud, with crullers clutched to our hearts, maybe the corporate honchos will hear us.

To contact Tim Hortons, e-mail them at


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