Just as an empty stomach will make the most mediocre food taste excellent, sleep deprivation can make black-tar gas station coffee taste like the nectar of the gods. Anyways, interstates and backroads are not the place for an expertly pulled espresso or a custom blend from Nicaragua (no offense, Nicaragua!). Hot, maybe burnt, and cut with creamer and white sugar, road trip coffee exists to move you along, like a good song on the radio or a sky at dawn that's pretty to look at. You can always count on a gas station to have it. You can always count on it to keep your eyes open.
There are times, though, when gas stations are far away, when you need a coffee-like substance and the tepid swill in your cupholder will not do. Europe has you covered here: Europe has Pocket Coffee.
I first caught wind of Pocket Coffee from Melanie Dunea's story all about eating at Autogrills in Italy; apparently they stock it at their cash registers like American rest stops stock gum. It's a small candy, shaped like a truffle and similarly coated in chocolate, with a syrupy coffee filling and some sort of caramelized crunch at the bottom. You've got to tip your head back and wear a bib when you take a bite, lest you waste coffee on your shirt. It doesn't taste like great coffee—it tastes like coffee you need. Sharp, sweet, and quickly gone. And chocolate never hurts.
These days, I keep the box that I ordered from Amazon—shipped from Germany—on my desk for sleepy afternoons when I don't feel like walking to the coffee shop down the street from our office, or when I want something a little harder than a square of chocolate. But I'll also stock them for my next road trip, and pop them as I zoom around curves and past vistas, sugar and caffeine moving me along.
Pocket Coffee, 6 packs of 18 bars, $55 on amazon.com.