What It Means To Order A Double-Double At Tim Hortons

For some Canadians, coffee chain Tim Hortons is not just a purveyor of coffee and donuts: It's a national icon. Named for founder and NHL player Tim Horton, the company counts close to 4,000 locations in Canada alone. With that kind of ubiquity, customers and the company have developed their own vernacular, not unlike Starbucks' use of sizes like "tall," "grande," and "venti."

For example, there's the "iced capp," which isn't an iced coffee in the traditional sense, but a frozen drink that's more like a sweet coffee slushie – similar to a coffee granita. There are also "Timbits," the chain's vivid name for donut holes (usually available in various flavors or with different glazes). But perhaps the most notable nugget of Tim Hortons' phraseology is the "double-double." This expression is so common that it was added to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary in 2004. However (and somewhat surprisingly), you may not see it written on an official Tim Hortons menu — so, what does it mean? Let's keep it simple: A double-double is a coffee with two creams and two sugars added. So, unlike the iced capp, it's not so much its own menu item as a way of serving Tim Hortons' standard drip coffee.

Twice as nice

Although the term double-double might imply that the coffee contains two teaspoons of sugar and two creamer packages (or equivalent), the actual volume of sugar and cream added varies depending on the size of the coffee you order. Writing in the Toronto Star, one Canadian gastroenterologist noted that a medium double-double contains around 3.5 teaspoons of sugar, and a large has 6 teaspoons. So, it's proportionate, presumably to make sure that a small double-double tastes the same as a large one.

Similarly, you can also order a triple-triple at Tim Hortons: Unsurprisingly, this means three sugars and three creams — although it never made it into the Oxford Dictionary. For just one sugar and one cream, order a "regular," and not a "single-single." For more than three creams and sugars, the Tim Hortons menu doesn't have any official terminology although anecdotal evidence suggests that you can order a "four by four" with — you guessed it — four creams and four sugars.

Can you order a double-double outside Canada?

Tim Hortons has over 1,000 locations outside Canada, mostly in the USA but also in places like Mexico, the UK, and the Philippines. It's hard to say if the term "double-double" will be well-received in these places since it's fundamentally regarded as a pretty Canadian turn of phrase. The Filipino and Thai arms of the company list the double-double as its own distinct menu item while online menus for American and British Tim Hortons locations don't mention them. Since Tim Hortons coined the phrase, it's certainly plausible that its staff outside Canada would understand it, but there's no guarantee.

On a similar note, it's worth noting that "double-double" may not always be understood in French-speaking Canada, including Montreal and Quebec City. The term does appear on Tim Hortons' French menus and is sometimes used and understood, but not always — it may be better to use the French phrase "deux-deux" ("two-two") instead. Whether you're craving some brownie-filled donut holes or a uniquely Canadian snack, Tim Hortons has something to help scratch the itch — and you can get a double-double at the same time.