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Driver Lifestyles

The Great Coffee Competition

By Sandy Long
Posted Nov 28th 2014 1:51AM

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Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have probably the best-known coffee outside of Maxwell House, with hundreds of locations around the country. As the map above shows, Dunkin Donuts holds sway on the east coast, while Starbucks holds sway on the west coast and is scattered throughout the country. Tim Hortons is edging into the competition along the north and becoming a real option in the northeast.

Looking at the map it is interesting to see where the contenders are. Colorado, around the Denver area is high in Starbucks with no Dunkin Donuts in sight. Arizona and Nevada also have only a few Dunkin Donuts, while Texas shows three among many Starbucks. It appears that Starbucks only shows up in higher income, high population areas predominately, while Dunkin Donuts is found only in a few locations west of the Mississippi and not at all on the west coast. Tim Hortons is slowly edging down into the upper Midwest and is all along the northern border; looks like they will soon be giving Dunkin Donuts a run for their money in the northeast.

Few of the three top brands are shown in the vast majority of the Midwest outside of major cities. Where do those people who are so under served by major coffee establishments get their coffee? Do they just not drink coffee; make it at home, or frequent local diners and convenience stores for that morning cup? There is really no way to know for sure, but everyone knows truckers love their coffee so that seemed to be a good place to look.

Where do truckers find the best coffee and is Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, or a much smaller chain winning the great coffee competition; opinions vary. Lawrence McCord, of ExpeditersOnline.com and a past Owner Operator himself, says Tim Hortons has the best coffee. Most Canadians agree with him. Ray, a retired Canadian driver says, “Every Canadian driver will tell you ‘Timmies’ which is what we call Tim Hortons, has the best coffee. Tim Hortons was started in 1964 in Hamilton Ontario and has migrated throughout Canada and into parts of the USA now.” A lady driver, Marge has this to say about Tim Hortons, “I just tried Timmy Hortons for the first time and I am in love.” Tim Hortons also sells their coffee for home use at their locations. Many of the responding truckers keep some in the truck for use when there is not a ‘Timmies’ nearby.

Pilot/Flying J comes in a close second to ‘Timmies’ with American drivers on the quality of their coffee. Bonna, another lady driver has this to say about them, “Pilot has a good gig with their coffee, I love their coffee!” Charlene, part of a husband wife team related, “One morning Jim and I drove 50 miles for a cup of Pilot coffee; Yumm lots of French vanilla cream!”

TA/Petro comes in third with their Dunkin Donuts Coffee found at some locations. Deb says this about Dunkin Donuts, “Thanks to Petro & TA with Dunkin Donuts, that's my absolute fave!” Amanda agrees, “Dunkin Donuts is my favorite. I’m an iced caramel addict, not a fan of the express type, but love the full service Dunkin Donuts.” Jacque and Debbie both agree on Dunkin Donuts though they are second for Jacque, “Personally I like Kwik Trip and Kwik Stars in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin but elsewhere, I will opt for Dunkin Donuts.”

Gene likes one of the other stops mentioned above, “Two types of coffee I love, Kwik Trip Travel Stops and truck stops that serve Farmer Brothers Coffee like J&J Truck Stop in LeMars, IA.” Karey too likes specific coffees found only on the interstate or toll road. “I love Caribou coffee (found on the map about mainly in Minnesota) and Gloria Jean’s coffee. Neither of those companies’s coffee tastes over cooked,” She says, “There are Gloria Jean’s at a few service plazas in Ohio and Pennsylvania on the toll roads. Caribou is in Hornbacher’s in Fargo North Dakota, Kroger in Springfield Missouri and at the Petro in Joplin Missouri.”

Not all good coffee is found at truck stops. Lester, a driver in the US has a local establishment in Laredo Texas he enjoys when in the area, Danny’s. He says, “Bobtail into some Laredo locations of Danny’s, park on the street, or call a friend to enjoy a cup of coffee with. When I am in my truck I make my own, find either a Pilot/Flying J, Stripes or Starbucks, of course, I am not picky am I? Starbucks has good coffee and other types of coffee drinks, but outside of a few of the toll road service plazas, it is hard to find one that you can get a truck into.”

Shane, a driver, says Milts has the best coffee, they have a sign saying so. “Milts Coffee Shop in Bakersfield California has the best coffee. Actually, they have a sign inside that reads, ' The World’s Best Coffee is Served Here' proof that Milts has the best coffee in the whole wide world! Wow! They must have tasted millions of cups of the Java to narrow that list down.” Tanja, another lady driver that goes to the west coast finds her favorite coffee in a hut. She says, “No question on the little coffee huts in Washington and Oregon. They are the absolute best every time.”

While nationally, there is a huge competition between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts with hundreds of locations around the country, Starbucks is not the dominant choice of truckers. This may be due to inaccessibility for trucks more than anything, as it does show some favor in truck stops and service plazas where their coffee is offered. From the unofficial, unscientific poll done for this article, Tim Hortons got the most votes on who has the best coffee on the road. Dunkin Donuts is liked when found in truck stops, but like Starbucks, few actual Dunkin Donut stores have truck parking.

Coffee has energized folk for centuries and it looks like it will continue to do so into the far future with over 2.5 million cups sold in the United States a year. Whether you are in your car or your truck, be sure that somewhere near someplace will have a decent cup of coffee waiting on you.

2 Comments

  • - December 1, 2014
    Harry-=|=-If you're near Philadelphia, I heartily recommend Wawa coffee. Wawa prides itself on their coffee, hoagies, etc., with good reason.

    Again, it is a convenience store chain, so I cannot guarantee there'll be room for 18 wheelers, but there are 500 of them in PA, NJ, MD, VA, and FL.
  • - December 1, 2014
    Harry-=|=-If you're near Philadelphia, I heartily recommend Wawa coffee. Wawa prides itself on their coffee, hoagies, etc., with good reason.

    Again, it is a convenience store chain, so I cannot guarantee there'll be room for 18 wheelers, but there are 500 of them in PA, NJ, MD, VA, and FL.

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