Is it odd that the most prominent holiday decorations on campus are the Starbucks and Second Cup banners advertising their line of seasonal drinks? Forget wreaths, stars, or mistletoe; for UTM students it’s these advertisements that mark the start of the holiday season.

And they seem to be working—students look forward to the arrival of holiday-themed drinks on campus. Let’s be honest, there’s no better companion to a study session in the library or to a final lecture than a candy cane hot chocolate or an egg nog latte. These drinks make the winter break seem that much closer.

Indeed, when talking to UTM students, I discovered that Starbucks and Second Cup are king on campus when it comes to these drinks. Tim Hortons and the other food providers on campus don’t have as competitive a seasonal campaign as these two.

Despite all the choices available at Starbucks and Second Cup, most students have one or two favourites that they buy regularly. Starbucks’ peppermint mocha is the favourite of Sharon Kowalski, a second-year geography and visual art major, while Harman Sahota, a criminology and sociology major, says he prefers Starbucks’ gingerbread latte and Second Cup’s s’mores hot chocolate.

These Christmas-y beverages are the kinds of drinks that pique students’ interest around this time of year. Baristas at UTM’s Second Cup say that their most popular winter drinks are the s’mores hot chocolate, the candy cane latte, and the candy cane hot chocolate.

Starbucks also sees a spike in business when they start offering their seasonal drinks, and a second spike around exam time. The caramel brûlé latte and the peppermint mocha are their most popular drinks at this time of year.

Despite the spike in sales, not all students have a signature holiday drink, much less get excited about their arrival. “I tried Starbucks’ peppermint mocha and hot chocolate with whipped cream on a whim. But I’m more intrigued by their autumn collection, like their pumpkin spice latte, which gets hyped up a lot,” says Jordan Nisbet, an English specialist with minors in philosophy and professional writing.

“I don’t pay attention to the holiday drinks,” says Tom Ketchum, a theatre and drama studies specialist and English major. “I really only notice the holiday boards advertising them. I’ve tried some in the past but they’re too sugary. When I get coffee, I want caffeine.”

Even the students who like holiday drinks stick to the cheaper alternatives for their daily cup of joe for the sake of price and convenience. “I go to Tim Hortons regularly for their french vanilla or a double-double. Starbucks is more of a treat,” says Kowalski.

I find myself in the latter category. However, I get my real caffeine kick from tea. (Yes, go ahead and laugh. I’m a bit pathetic when it comes to caffeine.) Last week, though, after a tough day, I tried my first Second Cup candy cane hot chocolate with whipped cream. It definitely beat any regular hot chocolate, but I don’t think I could commit to it on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I do enjoy seeing the changes in Starbucks’ and Second Cup’s seasonal advertising campaigns and the new products they develop. While these campaigns don’t necessarily get me to pay up, they certainly inspire me to create my own holiday drinks at home and get me in the spirit of the season.

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