Pumpkin spice starts fall

Published 10 months ago -

Ah, the crisp and hearty flavors of fall. Whether we really felt the season isn’t entirely certain—from our drawn-out summer to our premature winter chill and snowfall—but for sure, autumn is perhaps the most underrated season of all.

Like its vernal cousin spring, fall is a period and temperament of transition. Whereas spring finds us shedding layers and coming out of hibernation, autumn finds us cozying up and bracing ourselves before the storm. Yet somehow, almost counter-intuitively, fall is the warmest of the seasons.

As temperatures drop outside, we turn our heat on, take out our plaid sheets and flannel and start consuming hot beverages regularly (though I would never turn down a nice hot chocolate on a 100-degree day).

For fall is the beginning of the season of Starbucks. And the season starts than none other than the most infamous handcrafted Starbucks beverage of all, the pumpkin spice latte.

Love it or hate it or have no opinion, the release of PSL essentially signifies the bell tolling for the beginning of fall. The leaves can’t fall off the trees until we’ve taken our first sip of that spicy brown-orange espresso milk.

Insofar that it’s become an iconic symbol of both the fall season and the Starbucks brand, many people look forward to the PSL to get themselves in the mood for the entire stretch of fall and winter. On a grander scale, it’s their first taste of what’s to come for the end of the year and the beginning of the next.

But does pumpkin spice actually taste good? Does it know it carries the weight of the world? As a barista, I can tell you that many people who order a PSL every day since its release seem to think so. And it’s certainly a satisfying beverage to make, complete with whipped cream and a dusting of pumpkin spice topping. The face that people make when they finally have their first sip is really a joy to see.

Personally, I find it a bit overrated, but I welcome it back every year to try once and then make dozens of PSLs a day for the next two months. Also, we have the sauce until about February, so if you have a craving, just ask us and we’ll probably still have it into 2018.

But now I’d like to compare PSL to our other seasonal beverages, of which we have much better flavors. Maybe you’ll find your next perennial favorite in this list.

  1. Maple Pecan Latte (MPL): a beverage released this year, and a highly disappointing one at that. No depth of flavor or flavor profile at all, tastes like pure sugar. (2/10)
  2. Peppermint Mocha/Hot Chocolate (PM/PHC): this beverage could be something amazing if Starbucks mocha sauce was better. Also far too sweet, with 12 flavor pumps in a venti PHC. (4/10)
  3. Peppermint White Mocha/Hot Chocolate (PWM/PWHC): peppermint mocha’s less popular relative who edges it out purely because white mocha is a bit better than mocha. The dark chocolate curls on top are great, though. (5/10)
  4. Salted Caramel Mocha/Hot Chocolate (SCM/SCHC): the SCM is Starbucks’ close runner-up to PSL in terms of popularity, and I understand why, but again, it is far too sweet for its own good. However, the sea salt topping is divine and has use far beyond just the SCM. (5/10)
  5. Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL): Here she is, in all her mediocre glory. PSLs are for comfort, not for surprise. (6/10)
  6. Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate (SDHC): a newer addition to the hot chocolate lineup, snickerdoodle combines white mocha with Starbucks’ new fascination with using cinnamon dolce syrup in as many new drinks as possible. Too sweet once again, but a more interesting flavor. (6/10)
  7. Toasted White Mocha/Hot Chocolate (TWM/TWHC): released just this year, the toasted white mocha is really no different than regular white mocha, save a few key differences. It’s less sweet, and it’s paired with an incredible cranberry sugar topping that I put on almost everything. (6.5/10)
  8. Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte (PSCH): surprised to see your old friend new and improved? Pairing pumpkin spice and chai is surprisingly effective, giving it an extra spicy kick that really puts pumpkin where it should be. (7/10)
  9. Caramel Brulée Latte (CBL): one of the most popular holiday beverages, caramel brulée definitely brings an improvement to regular old caramel with a sweet topping to boot. (7.5/10)
  10. Gingerbread Latte (GL): a very underrated syrup, gingerbread is a great balance of sweet and spicy that improves nearly any beverage you put it in, and the latte is a nice place to start. (8/10)
  11. Caramel Apple Spice (CAS): not many people know about this drink when they should. CAS combines steamed apple juice with cinnamon dolce, whipped cream and caramel drizzle. Incredibly sweet, yes, but it makes you feel so warm inside. Add salt topping and this drink is golden delicious. (8.5/10)
  12. Joy Tea: Joy tea is part of Starbucks’ underutilized hot Teavana (R.I.P.) selection, and it’s a lovely blend of black, green and oolong tea for a warm, aromatic and spicy cup. It’s even better as an iced tea, although I wouldn’t order it as one unless you make it at home yourself. (8.5/10)
  13. Eggnog Latte (EL): eggnog is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of drink, but I love it, and steamed eggnog is a beautiful thing, even if it produces a terrifying screeching noise when you steam it. (8.5/10)
  14. Chestnut Praline Latte (CPL): chestnut praline is a rare flavor that actually earns its popularity. The taste of caramelized chestnuts pairs perfectly with espresso, producing a smooth yet not-too-sweet flavor meant to savor. (9/10)
  15. Eggnog Chai Latte (CHEG): in addition to having a great code, CHEG is a hidden treasure among holiday drinks. Indulgent and addicting, the spiciness of chai mixed with the sweetness of eggnog creates some sort of liquid ambrosia that deserves more attention. Make it a dirty CHEG by adding a shot of espresso and you won’t regret it. (9.5/10)
  16. Holiday Spice Flat White (HSFW): the holy grail of holiday beverages. Holiday spice is a divine mixture of cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg that melt under ristretto shots and mingle with the micro foam of a flat white to make the single greatest cup of warm winter goodness in a paper cup ever. Please drink a HSFW this holiday season. (10/10)


Luke Maguire, a junior, studies English. He is the Arts & Entertainment editor for Le Provocateur.

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