As we settle into autumn for a brief second — winter is right around the corner — we get to enjoy some of the best things about the season that we can probably all agree on, like classic Black festive cinema, dramatic hair transformations, and low vibrational plates (if you know, you know). But there are some things that even the strongest of communities can’t come together on, and the phenomenon that is pumpkin spice is one of them.
The flavour is the main signifier of the changing seasons, even more so than the browning leaves falling from the trees. Its curious blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice just feels like autumn, and as a result, pumpkin spice is everywhere and in everything you can think of as soon as the end of September rolls around; you can get pumpkin spice coffee, dessert, candles, eyeshadow palettes, and even hair dye. Don’t be fooled — the ubiquity of pumpkin spice doesn’t mean that it’s universally loved. If anything, the taste is widely and passionately debated. People just can’t seem to agree on whether they hate it or love it.
It’s no different on Team Unbothered, which really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. (Y’all know we’re full of hot takes on this side.) A casual team meeting turned into The Great Debaters when someone innocently brought up their confusion about the hype around pumpkin spice, with both sides of the argument very enthusiastically trying to defend their respective stances. Like all good conversations, the heated discourse made way for some good content. Choose your side wisely — this is The Great Pumpkin Spice Debate.
Alexis Jackson (Deputy Director, Social): I grew up in a community that was very, very, very white, so naturally, pumpkin spice is something that I gravitate to. I take it very seriously, too. The first day anything pumpkin spice comes out, I have to get mine. I just really like the pumpkin spice flavour!
Christa Eduafo (Social Content Strategist): Oh, same. I might actually even be worse than you, Alexis — I'm a pumpkin spice purist. There's a specific time of year you should have pumpkin spice. Starbucks isn’t slick, either; they’ve been perverting the pumpkin spice timeline for quite some time, introducing it earlier and earlier. Personally, I'm waiting till the leaves have changed and there's an obvious chill in the air. That's when I'm going to get my pumpkin spice latte, light my pumpkin spice candle, make my pumpkin spice cookies homemade from scratch with the musical stylings of Taylor Swift playing softly in the background. I might even watch a Halloween movie.
Ineye Komonibo (Culture Critic): So it’s not even just about the flavour for y’all. It’s a whole culture!
CE: Exactly. A culture — a ritual, even. I can’t have it year round because I'm trying to preserve that magic. We only get two months of it before winter comes in and pushes us into a seasonal depressive state, so you have to go hard while you can.
Ineye Komonibo: I hear you, I do. But as I always do, I’ll keep it a buck with y’all…pumpkin spice is a no for me. I think that the twang of the pumpkin takes away from an otherwise tolerable flavour. Autumn is a great season — we love wool coats and boots and being able to go outside without sweating — but pumpkin spice just doesn’t hit the way y’all are trying to convince me that it does. Even hotter take: autumn food in general is mid, man. Turkey, dressing, apple pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie? Absolutely not. Like, just give me an IV drip of nutrients during this season until we get to the good stuff.
CE: Even sweet potato pie?
IK: Yes, even sweet potato pie. I’ll hand over my Black card in a second.
AJ: Well, if you don’t like pumpkin spice lattes, what’s your preferred hot drink?
IK: I’m the hot chocolate girl!
CE: That’s winter!! There’s a schedule, Ineye — you need to stick to it!
IK: I don’t drink coffee, so if it’s cold…hot chocolate.
AJ: I take offense to that. You wanna talk about low vibrational…hot chocolate as an adult is childish.
IK: Pardon me! It’s a classic, widely beloved beverage! Unlike pumpkin spice, which is…well, for white people.
CE: It tastes good, though ! And another thing: why, as Black people, do we-
IK: [eyeroll] Aww, here she goes. It’s giving Kanye West.
AJ: It’s giving red hat.
CE: No, listen! We can’t give white people everything. We can have pumpkin spice, too! But beyond that, do you mean to tell me that you genuinely don’t enjoy the vibes of autumn? Lighting a candle, snuggling by the fire, all that?
IK: Babes, I am anemic — autumn is the beginning of me always being cold. So yeah, I like wearing sweaters, but it’s out of necessity. The enjoyable seasonal rituals don’t start until spring, and they really ramp up during summer, otherwise known as the best, sexiest time of the year.
AJ: Maybe it’s because you’re from Texas? There probably isn’t a distinct autumn culture.
IK: We do love a flannel over there, but beyond the cosier fashions and the start of festive movie season, autumn is kind of a dub for me.
CE: It’s all making sense now. You didn’t have the physical weather changes growing up, so this transition doesn’t mean anything to you. For me and Alexis, the first day in October is like Pavlovian conditioning; as soon as we feel that temperature drop, out come the pumpkin spice candles.
AJ: We gotta take you to a pumpkin patch. I begged my boyfriend to take me to one a few years back.
IK: To do what exactly, Alexis? What did y’all do there?
AJ: …nothing, really. But it’s the concept of it that’s important!
IK: What I’m gleaning from this conversation is that your attachment to pumpkin spice isn’t really about the flavor itself—
CE: Though it is delicious!
AJ: It’s an experience that requires elite taste.
CE: And sophistication!
IK: …it’s not about the flavour itself, but the feeling and the rituals that you associate it with every year. Y’all just like being cosy, and you’re conflating the two sentiments. I can make peace with that.