Looking for that mid-morning pick-me-up? Need some extra energy to fuel a late-night cram session? It should come as no surprise that most university students turn to a cup of coffee to help survive the day.

Here at UTM, aside from brewing your own beverage, the three main stops for coffee are Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and Second Cup. On the pursuit for the perfect cup of coffee, I reviewed the three shops in an attempt to end the debate about which chain has the best cup of coffee once and for all—at least on the UTM campus.

The most efficient way to reach a conclusion was to base my answer through cupping, the act of tasting and comparing similar types of coffee based on aroma, sweetness, body, and finish. An unbiased comparison was made through a blind taste test of black, medium roast coffee samples.

Based on these results, Second Cup wins the title of best cup of plain dark coffee on campus. However, depending on what you are looking for, each shop offers different flavour experiences.

The overall impressions of each sample were pretty different. Striking a good balance of sweetness and bitterness, the overall body of Starbucks’ coffee was very smooth, and had a subtle yet distinguishable aftertaste. With a robust aroma, Second Cup’s coffee had the boldest flavour. Its strong bitterness leaves a prominent aftertaste. The mildest of the coffees, Tim Hortons, has a sweet, dull flavour. It lacks hints of bitterness, inevitably leaving little to no aftertaste.

For those of you who prefer a sweeter sip, there are still plenty of options.

Second Cup offers a flavourful caramel version of coffee, called a Caramel Corretto. Fourth-year English student Raveena Singh says, “It’s the perfect balance of sweetness and coffee. It’s really good, and has the coffee taste without being bitter.”

An extremely popular alternative to a basic coffee at Tim Hortons would be an Iced Capp.

“[It’s] a sweet and chilling cappuccino. It has a smooth taste of caffeine, with the sugary taste of an iced drink, making it very refreshing,” says second-year accounting specialist, Melanie Marshall.

In the end, there is no real answer to the coffee debate—it all comes down to you and your preferences. But one thing is certain: whether you’re looking for a plain coffee, or going for more creative flavour combinations, either Starbucks, Tim Hortons, or Second Cup can provide you with the hot beverage that you desire.