Quest for Best Pumpkin Spice Latte

Julia DeGregorio

As the warm summer breeze begins to slowly fade away and the leaves start changing their hues, coffee lovers have only one thing on their mind: the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. While arguments can be made for or against this seasonal classic, one thing is irrefutable: it has a significant impact on food culture in America.  Almost all major coffee chains have their own rendition of this fall favorite.

The pumpkin spice latte is typically comprised of steamed milk, espresso and fall spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.) and is nicknamed “PSL.” The drink was first put on the market by Starbucks back in the fall of 2003 so I thought it fitting to begin my foray into the land of pumpkin spice at the place where it all began.

The Starbucks PSL is surprisingly mild in terms of actual pumpkin flavor, which could be good or bad, depending on preference. The spice flavor was definitely apparent in the drink, but did not overpower the strong espresso, which made for a very well balanced drink. The only drawback would be the slight excess of sweetness, which took away from all of the other flavors in the drink, and a higher price tag then any of the other PSLs on this list. Overall, the Starbucks PSL is popular for a reason, but not something I would drink everyday.

The next stop on my PSL journey was to Starbucks’ biggest rival: Dunkin’ Donuts. Before even trying the Dunkin’ PSL, I immediately noticed the price, which is significantly lower than Starbucks (especially after an Eagles win, in which case it’s free). The Dunkin’ Donuts PSL had a very artificial taste but in the best way possible. Like the Starbucks PSL, the drink was very sweet  which took away from the other flavors but it still left a pleasant aftertaste. Realistically, the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts PSL are the same in most aspects except for price – so go for the cheaper one.

The final stop in my PSL journey was Saxby’s, which was probably the worst. I opted for the pumpkin spice cold brew and had high hopes for it. Sadly, these hopes were in vain. The drink was far too heavy-handed on the spice, causing a very off-putting, gritty texture. Any trace of pumpkin flavor was nonexistent, and the coffee was overpowered by the spice. The overuse of spice also led to a funky aftertaste that was difficult to ignore.

All in all, the occasional PSL is an autumn must, right up there with carving pumpkins and going to a haunted house. However it does not need to be an everyday thing from September to November. Get one, take a picture with it, be basic for a little bit and then let that be the end of it.

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