Believe it or not, when Starbucks' team of expert baristas was concocting something to embody the feel of warm sweaters, crisp air, and the changing season, they nearly shelved a pumpkin spiced coffee drink. According to Business Insider, chocolate caramel and cinnamon spice seemed much more in line with the season.
Peter Dukes, Starbucks' espresso brand manager, didn't let the drink's tepid first impression deter him, however. Business Insider notes that Dukes felt that the PSL was destined for greatness, so he didn't back down. Instead, he pushed for its creation, pointing out that there was really nothing pumpkin-flavored on the market back in 2003.
"Developers realized there was something special around the pumpkin flavor," Dukes told The Daily Meal. "Especially since there wasn't anything around pumpkin at the time."
After setting up a makeshift Thanksgiving lab in the middle of January, which included pumpkin pies, fresh pumpkins, and canned pumpkin, Starbucks' team tested out a bevy of different options. Like a sort-of coffee-whispering Goldilocks, the team managed to find a mix that was just right. And Dukes knew that there was some sort of magic in the beverage.
"We started to experiment with high-pumpkin, low-spice, low-pumpkin, high-spice combinations, ultimately landing on a recipe with more spice in it," Dukes explained. After the research team decided on the final formulation, they dubbed it the fall harvest latte. Alas, the PSL wouldn't get the name that its die-hard fans know and love until it got to test markets.
In 2002, the drink hit Vancouver and Washington, D.C., followed by the rest of the U.S.A. in 2003 after getting the seal of approval during testing. Now, it's the most popular Starbucks seasonal beverage.
America's not the only one getting on the action, either. The U.K., Austria, Switzerland, and various countries in Latin America also serve up the fall specialty. For a drink that didn't almost make it to the lineup, the PSL certainly has done well for itself.