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Is Starbucks trying to woo Tim's regulars by going blonde?

Kiichiro Sato / AP Photo

Starbucks is out to gobble up even more market share by targeting coffee lovers who don't care for its signature burnt taste.

The java giant is betting that would-be customers will prefer "blondes." Starbucks's new "Blonde" roast promises to be "lighter, mellower and more subtle" – and remarkably similar to the brew favoured by Tim Hortons fans, Macleans reports.

In an online video, two of Starbucks "master roasters" describe the lighter blend thus: "It kind of dances on your tongue in a different way than any other Starbucks coffee," and "it's for the person who always wished that Starbucks had a roast like this."

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That "person" is the Tim Hortons regular who starts each day with a double-double, argues Macleans columnist Jessica Allen.

And with a milder (read: insipid) roast on offer, Starbucks will finally have the seniors market covered. In a Starbucks blog post about the new roast, the company's global coffee category manager acknowledges that her own dad "typically finds some of our coffees a little too dark for his tastes."

Quick-serve coffee is black gold. Each year, Canadians buy 1.5 billion cups of the murky stuff, making it the nation's most popular beverage, The Globe and Mail reported.

The brew battle is already heated. In the Globe's blind taste test of five quick-serve brands, Tim Hortons (which experts described as sour, like a "dirty teapot") was only one step ahead of last-place Starbucks House Blend (dismissed by the panel for its "charred," "burnt toast" flavour).

Who knows? Starbucks' blonde ambition could give it the leg up. The introduction of the blonde roast coincides with an announcement that a handful of Starbucks locations in Atlanta and Southern California will start offering booze by the end of 2012.

If Starbucks manages to lure regulars away from Tim Hortons – and local watering holes – world domination may not be far behind.

Can you see yourself, or your dad, ordering a "blonde" at your local Starbucks?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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