The decision of one Alberta man to buy coffees for 500 strangers appears to have triggered a wave of generosity across the country as more and more copycats are "pouring it forward,” and many are wondering why Canada’s coffee-lovers suddenly feel the need to be so kind to one other.

The coffee-kindness trend was seemingly set in motion Monday, when a man described as being in his 20s walked into a Tim Hortons in downtown Edmonton, bought a coffee and doughnut for himself, and then offered to pay for the coffees of the next 500 customers to come in after him.

Since then, there has been a string of copycats, all opening their wallets to treat their fellow java-drinkers. They include:

  • A customer at a Saskatoon Tim Hortons purchased 500 coffees at the chain’s 22nd Street West location on Thursday, reports the Star Phoenix. The Good Samaritan's deed was followed up with a second donation by the local music station Rock 102, who purchased 785 coffees Friday morning with the help of an unidentified customer and listeners. "Random acts of kindness surely brightened up the days of people all around the city. Go Saskatoon!!" reads a Facebook post.
  • Staff and students at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology got in on the free Tim Hortons coffee action, thanks to an anonymous benefactor. "The free drinks at #NAIT Tim Hortons has run out!! Hundreds got free beverages thanks to an anonymous donor who paid $500. Thank you!," tweeted the school on Friday.
  • The pay-it-forward coffee crusade continued in Alberta after a regular customer in the town of Chestermere, just outside Calgary, bought 500 cups of Tim Hortons' coffee Friday morning. "We’ve had a few customers (who received a free cup of coffee) leave their money behind to add to the pay-it-forward," store manager Valerie Bruce told CTV Calgary.
  • A regular customer at a Calgary coffee outlet bought 500 medium coffees Thursday, saying he wanted to "lift the spirits" of people in the city after last month's floods.
  • A Red Deer Tim Hortons was also the recipient of the "courtesy coffee craze" when another man paid for 500 cups.
  • Later that day in Ottawa, a mystery man gave $860 to the Tim Hortons at the Ottawa Trainyards and offered customers to order whatever they wanted until the money ran out.
  • A Tim Hortons kiosk in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton was the recipient of not one, but two acts of generosity. First, a man wearing hospital scrubs bought 500 coffees, then a woman later in the day bought 800 more coffees.
  • Tim Hortons has also confirmed a number of other examples of “pour it forward” acts of kindness in a handful of other Canadian cities and towns, including London, Ont., Oakville, Ont., Kingston, Ont., and Hawkesbury, Ont.

In almost every case, the coffee benefactors have chosen to remain anonymous.

But the woman who bought the 800 coffees in Edmonton was happy to talk. She said she heard about the first man and decided she wanted to up the ante, issuing a challenge to others to keep the trend going and either match her donation, or exceed it. "That would be awesome," she told CTV Edmonton.

As for what has sparked all this sudden generosity, it's a mystery.

More than a few people have noted that all the random acts of kindness have been occurring only at Tim Hortons – not other coffee outlets. And that's caused many to wonder whether it's all an elaborate marketing hoax.

Tim Hortons insists that's not the case.

"As brilliant as this is, I can assure you that Tim Hortons has nothing to do with the Good Samaritans that have been purchasing coffees across the country," Tim Hortons spokesperson Michelle Robichaud said Thursday.

She said the company has been "humbled by the generosity" that has been taken place.

"Clearly this is someone who has a very pure heart and just wishes to put smiles on some people's faces and spread some good cheer," said Robichaud.

While many remain skeptical, others say Canadians should just enjoy this latest version of "pour it forward" trend while it lasts.

On the CTV website in Edmonton, one commenter named “Laurel” wrote: "If everyone were to criticize the Pay it Forward model, it would just cease to exist.… People respond to graciousness, good spirit, and generosity, so stop analyzing whether it's worth doing it, of course it is! Just do it."