Like many people, I grew up in a household that got started each morning to the smell of coffee. Now, it’s the first thing I reach for when I get up, and I admittedly drink too much of it throughout the day. I’m not alone in that.
According to the National Coffee Association, Americans consume a total of 400 million cups of coffee each day, and the average an American coffee drinker consumes about three cups daily.
I drink about three times that amount, so it’s no surprise that I have tried hot coffee from all of the big gas stations in Central Pa. − Wawa, Sheetz, Turkey Hill, Royal Farms and Rutter’s. I grew up in a family of truck drivers, and I’ve been on many cross-country runs and road trips in my 38 years of life, which means a lot of coffee stops along the way. I’ve had gas station coffee in little mom-and-pop shops and giant truck stops from here to California.
Rutter’s reigns supreme for gas station coffee, in my opinion.
I am not a huge fan of iced coffee, though, no matter how hot the weather gets. However, iced coffee is becoming increasingly popular, especially among Gen Z coffee drinkers, so I thought I’d see which of the major gas stations listed above have the best one.
One was a total fail, and one came out the obvious winner.
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Order: Dark Roast with French Vanilla Creamer and 2 sugars
Cost: $1.89 for a small
Location: 200 Rohrerstown Road, Lancaster
Ranking: 5th place
Royal Farms may be known in this region for its fried chicken, but its coffee is terrible. I don’t even care for its hot coffee, so the cold version was going to be a hard sell for me.
RoFo does not offer an iced coffee menu, but its coffee machines make the coffee fresh as you select the brew you want and you can choose to brew it for iced coffee. You have to add ice from the fountain drink area to a coffee cup and then take it back to the coffee machines. Then you choose your brew and whether or not you want to leave room for creamer.
RoFo has a coffee station with several creamer and sugar options, but not as many as Sheetz or Rutter’s. I chose the French Vanilla creamer because it was the coldest, and I thought it would be easy to match it for consistency in the other gas stations. The majority of the creamers were some off-brand that I did not recognize.
I am not one to pour coffee down the drain, but three sips in and I tossed out the whole cup. It was bitter and weak, and it left a weird aftertaste.
If you want a quick iced coffee, this is not the one to waste your money on.
Order: Dark roast, 2 pumps French Vanilla syrup, splash of half and half, 2 sugars
Cost: $1.02 for a small
Location: 301 Linden St., Columbia
Ranking: 4th place
I am not sure if I caught coffee on sale, but Turkey Hill has the cheapest. They have a similar setup to their coffee machines as RoFo, and they also offer iced coffees the way RoFo does. I was unable to order one through a kiosk at this location.
I chose the dark roast and added two regular sugars, two pumps of French Vanilla syrup, and a splash of half and half. It tasted like you’d expect gas station coffee to taste − bitter, slightly burned and acidic, even with the sugar and flavoring. It wasn’t as bad as my RoFo iced coffee, but I wouldn’t make it again, and I definitely didn’t drink more than a few sips. I didn’t even get a picture of it before I tossed it out.
At this point in my gas station iced coffee journey, I wondered if I was the problem. Could it really be that two gas stations had iced coffees that were this bad? Turkey Hill brand (not the same as Turkey Hill Minute Markets) has its own version of cold coffee drinks it sells in the Turkey Hill stores, and they’re decently flavored, so how could the iced coffee be this far off the mark?
My husband made me another one, and it was admittedly better than the one I made, but it still didn’t taste quite right. Iced coffees are supposed to be smooth, and this tasted just like a hot coffee with ice thrown in.
Overall, I rank Turkey Hill iced coffee number four on the list. Stick with the bottled coffee drinks if you want a cold coffee from this store.
Order: Cold Brew with Caramel Macchiato creamer
Location: 200 Rohrerstown Road, Lancaster
Ranking: 3rd place
Yes, that is coffee. No, it was not good. It really pains me to say that, because the hot coffee from Rutter’s is my favorite of the gas station coffees, and I have had really good cold lattes from Rutter’s. I did order this one from a screen, and a person behind the counter made it for me. Maybe they made it wrong?
I ordered a basic iced coffee with Cold Stone creamer, but they were out of that. I then chose the Caramel Macchiato International Delight creamer, because that’s what I generally use in my hot coffee at Rutter’s. I thought it couldn’t be too bad, and while it was better than Turkey Hill and RoFo iced coffee, it was too sweet. That is not a phrase I thought I’d ever say, and if you know how much sugar I put in my sweet tea, that would probably surprise you, too.
It tasted like drinking the creamer with a splash of coffee, and that is probably very close to how this was made when you look at the color. It clearly doesn’t have a good coffee-creamer balance. Like the iced coffees from the previous two gas stations, I only drank a few sips before throwing it out.
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Order: Caramel Vanilla Latte with a shot of espresso
Cost: $4.95 for a regular
Location: 4010 Columbia Ave., Columbia
Ranking: 2nd place
This Caramel Vanilla Latte at Sheetz was one I ordered through the kiosk, and it was amazing. I love a Skinny Vanilla Latte from Starbucks, and this coffee drink from Sheetz rivals it. Sweet, but not overly so, and smooth like an iced coffee should be, this iced latte was a perfect drink on a hot afternoon.
Its price is also comparable to Starbucks, so keep that in mind if you want to order it.
Order: Creme Brule with whole milk and a shot of espresso
Cost: $4.15 for a 16oz.
Location: 1990 Miller Road, East Petersburg
Ranking: 1st place
I can’t believe I am saying this, but Wawa beat out my beloved Rutter’s for the best gas station iced coffee. In fact, I’d choose this over Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee any day. This order, which was made through their ordering kiosks, was a deviation from the French Vanilla coffees I had in previous gas station trips. It was the last one I tried, so I needed a break from the same old order.
Crème Brule is my favorite dessert (and, yes, I am taking recommendations for the best Crème Brule in York County), so I thought the creamer would be a good option. I was not disappointed. I drank it so fast I completely forgot to get a picture of it, but once you’ve seen one iced coffee, they all start to look the same anyway.
This coffee was smooth, slightly sweet and had a full-bodied flavor with an aftertaste of chocolatey espresso. This is one area where Wawa reigns supreme, in my opinion.
Whatever your coffee preferences, York County has a lot of options, from chain coffee joints to locally owne coffee shops, and all the different gas station coffees your heart could want − or handle.
Have you tried all of the gas station iced coffees? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Email me at email@example.com.