Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tim Horton's Coffee. Yum. Not.

A photo of a Tim Horton's cup of coffee. Inten...Image via WikipediaCanadian coffee chain Tim Horton's has opened up in Dubai to much applause. It was thus that I found a colleague tucking into a cup of 'Tim Horton’s French Vanilla Cappuccino'. It is, according to the tin, "Rich and delicious". It smelt vile - sickly and unreal. Curious, I flipped the tin to read the ingredients label and this is what I found:

Sugar, coffee whitener [corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated coconut oil, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), dipotassium phosphate (E340i stabiliser), sodium tripolyphosphate (E451i), mono and diglycerides (vegetable), diacetyl tartaric esters of mono and diglycerides (E472e), sodium silicoaluminate (E554), artificial flavour], nonfat dry milk, instant coffee, artificial vanilla flavour [dextrose, maltodextrin, artificial flavour, tricalcium phosphate (E341iii)], artificial vanilla flavour [maltodextrin, artificial flavour, silicon dioxide (E551)], silicon dioxide (E551 anticaking agent), cocoa (processed with alkali), salt, carboxymethyl cellulose gum (E468 stabiliser).

The headlines are as follows. One cup of this product contains ONE FIFTH of your recommended daily intake of saturated fats, something like four teaspoons of sugar - the ENTIRE recommended daily intake of added sugar for a woman according to the American Heart Association and contains not one vanilla seed. It's also got no French in it. It does pack a neat punch of trans-fats, corn syrup and artifical flavourings and preservatives.

Let's take a look at that rich and delicious mixture in a little more detail... The ingredients in caps are the main ingredients, the ones just bolded are sub-ingredients of the main ingredient above.

The largest ingredient by weight in this product is not coffee, it's sugar. A lot of sugar. In fact, over half the content of that tin is sugar - 20g for each 35g serving. The tin's nutrition label cleverly dumps the sugar content together with fibre (0%, how could you expect to find fibre in something this processed?) under 'carbohydrates' which means it's only 8% of your recommended daily intake. Quite apart from the fact that almost a tenth of your recommended carbohydtate intake is provided by one cup of hot drink, this prestidigitation with labelling avoids telling you that this drink contains 100% of a woman's recommended daily intake of added sugar and 50% of a man's recommended intake (the recommendation comes from the American Heart Association). Not bad for one cup of gloop, is it?

This contains: corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated coconut oil, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), dipotassium phosphate (E340i stabiliser), sodium tripolyphosphate (E451i), mono and diglycerides (vegetable), diacetyl tartaric esters of mono and diglycerides (E472e), sodium silicoaluminate (E554), artificial flavour

Deelicious! A brief examination of those yummy looking ingredients!

Corn Syrup Solids
So the largest ingredient in the whitener is, you guessed it, more sugar. Corn syrup solids are made by removing the water from corn syrup. As you'll know from previous posts, the majority of corn in the US is genetically modified and corn syrup (high fructose or otherwise) is ubiquitous in American processed foods.

Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Also known as a trans fat. Oddly, the tin's label proclaims 0% trans fats, but they're definitely in there - coconut oil is a saturated fat to start with, but when treated with hydrogen bubbles to thicken it, ('hydrogenation') it becomes a trans-fat, a man-made fat that suppresses your body's use of 'good cholestrol' and adds to its stock of 'bad' cholestrol.

Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative)
This is an odd ingredient, as it is permitted by the US FDA to be an ingredient in 'non dairy' creamers, and yet is, as it says on the tin, a 'milk derivative'. Casein is a protein found in milk and this ingredient, which is a thickener and adds a 'dairy taste' to products, is obtained from fresh and/or pasteurized skimmed milk by acid coagulation of the casein. The mix is then neutralised using sodium hydroxide and powdered.

Dipotassium Phosphate and Sodium Tripolyphosphate
The first is a stabiliser, the second a preservative and moisture retainer.

Mono and diglycerides (vegetable),  (E472e), diacetyl tartaric esters of mono and diglycerides (E472e)
Mono and diglycerides are fats, used to extend shelf life, add a creamy flavour and help to bind other ingredients together. There's a lot of debate about them as they have appeared on food labels in place of hydrogenated oils, although they're a sort of new name for an old friend as they are, themselves, hydrogenated in the production process. The latter ingredient is sometimes referred to by the more friendly acronym DATEM.

Sodium Silicoaluminate and artifical flavour
The first is an anti-caking agent, the second is artificial.

Funny in a highly processed product packed with fats that they'd choose to use 'nonfat' powdered milk. Just out of interest, powdered milk contains higher levels of oxysterols, cholestrol derivatives that have been associated with the depositing of fatty materials on artery walls.

What it says on the tin.

There are actually TWO artificial vanilla flavours in this product. Both contain processed sugars (dextrose and maltodextrin), tricalcium phosphate (also charmingly known as 'bone ash') or silicon dioxide, which are both anti-caking agents. And both contain 'artificial flavour'. This is a product that has never seen a vanilla pod and probably wouldn't recognise it if it did.

Don't worry about the (processed with alkali), it's a process used in many cocoa drinks and just balances the natural acidity of the cocoa.

Quite a lot of it - 6% of your recommended daily intake (10% if you're over 51 or black).

A thickener.

So there we have it, a delicious drink in which no single ingredient has not undergone processing, which packs together artificial flavours with various ingredients designed to artificially trick you into thinking you're drinking something lovely when in fact what you're drinking is a cocktail of dubious fats, artificial flavouring agents and thickeners - and so much sugar you're likely drinking a whole day's recommended intake in one cup.



Emjay said...

Can anyone tell me what is the common name for silicon dioxide?

Hint: It's readily available her in UAE!

Devina Divecha said...

This may explain why I didn't like it very much :-/ I thought something was wrong with my taste buds - everyone else is going gaga over it.

Mich said...

And people are ohhhh and ahhhh and queuing for it! *facepalm*

Luke said...

They should throw the manufacturers into jail.

Stained said...

Sounds like the perfect drink for the typical fad crowd that's lining up outside...idiots.

Bush Mechanic said...

...yet they make no mention of dihydrogen monoxide that the in store product is saturated with. There is the true suppressed global scandal. I'm going to stay with my bottled Masafi and be safe.

alexander... said...

BM. Silly person.

Nagham said...

I'm still gna drink it- i'll just have to exercise more (or start exercising). I love Timmy's!

mrsdubai said...

Please can you clarify, is this the coffee they make fresh in the cafe, or a tinned product you buy for home use? I would imagine there would be a difference between the two? Or do they use a tinned product in the cafes?

alexander... said...

MrsD - I don't know about what they serve in the cafes, but this product is a tinned thing intended(I presume!) for consumption off the premises.

Khayra said...


Though, since I grew up on brand loyalty, I can't very well stop now.

Jessica said...

Emjay- silicon dioxide Is sand :) And if your point is that almost any common ingredient can be villainized with a scary-sounding chemical name, it's well taken.

Having said that, this "coffee" is a pretty abysmal excuse for a beverage that could be made with 3 ingredients (4 if you like it sweet!) No thanks, I'll stick to making mine at home (I'm in the US and personally, never got the Tim
Horton's attraction anyway).

But on the bright side, at least that Tricalcium Phosphate is adding some calcium content to Timmy's coffee!

Mamdoh Fangpyre Nass said...

I think a fair question is what do competing products look like?

BTW, the reason they use non-fat milk is because its cheaper. Milk manufacturers actually take out all fat while processing it, then they put back the fat in.
They also sell fat for other uses.

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