I have a confession: this morning I sipped my first Pumpkin Spice Latte, not of the season, but of my entire life. So, what? You may be wondering. Perhaps you've never had one either, maybe you never plan to. But for me — longtime coffee enthusiast, autumn lover, and connoisseur of all-things pumpkin — it was high time to find out the truth behind this fan-favorite drink's seasonal hype. I've never ordered a PSL before, not because I'm anti-pumpkin spice, it's just that I'm typically a black coffee loyalist — and haven't ever been swayed to swap orders. So pre-PSL, I had quite a few questions: Would it really give me all the #fallfeels? Would I feel the need to Instagram one every single day of fall? I planned a special pre-work trip to Starbucks to find out, (no black coffee orders allowed).
I woke up on the morning in question with an extra pep in my step — and not just because it was finally fall, but because this was the morning that I would make a Starbucks pitstop on my way to work. I made sure my commute was complete with a smooth, yet spicy, tune to set the mood — Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You." But once on line, I realized I hadn't fully thought this through: Do I ask for a PSL or a Pumpkin Spice Latte? Do I get whipped cream?! My hands clammed up as I approached the register, "I'll have a small — I mean, tall — Pumpkin Spice Latte...with whipped cream, please." I gave the friendly barista my name, along with a strained smile to mask my inexperienced panic, and then timidly moseyed out of the way to wait.
It felt like an eternity, but, finally I heard the phrase I'd been waiting for, "Liz? Tall Pumpkin Spice!" I claimed my cup, clutched it tightly, and went straight across the street to my office. I wanted to take my first sip without distraction — so, I sunk into my desk chair, took a deep breath, and popped off the to-go lid. A warm scent consumed me; it was pumpkin pie, fresh out of the oven on a Thanksgiving day. I tasted the whipped cream next (also pumpkin-spiced) — it was soft, subtle, and undeniably pumpkin-y. With the cup fully titled to my lips, I closed my eyes and took my first sip.
My PSL was smooth and sweet; silky and spicy; pure pumpkin with a slight punch of espresso — all the the flavor descriptors you'd imagine are used to describe this iconic Starbucks brew. The spiced notes of cinnamon and cloves were far less pronounced that I had anticipated — it was instead the pumpkin taste that led this PSL show: strong, sweet, and creamy, but still authentic. I felt like I was transported to a crisp fall Sunday in the late afternoon with soft sweaters, a crackling fire, and my family gathered around — yeah, it was like that.
Did I finish the whole cup, and will I now buy one every a.m. until they retire for the season? No. I could never turn my back on my one true caffeinated love: black coffee. But, a once a season there might be a casual PSL-fling in my future — because that tall cup did give me a serious case of the #fallfeels. And, at the end of the day, isn't that what truly great novelty food (or drink) should do? I don't know when my next Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte experience will be, but, thanks to a barista named Tyler, I'll never forget my very first sip.