Autumn in a Cup


The pumpkin spice latte has taken America by storm since its release in 2003 by Starbucks. The frothy, sweet, and spicy latte is the embodiment of autumn. The signature drink consists of espresso, steamed milk, and, as noted by the Starbucks website, a lovely flavor palette of mild pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It can be enjoyed iced or hot with a cookie as the cold weather approaches. 

Created in the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, pumpkin spice lattes, also known as PSLs, were at the forefront of an initiative to create an autumnal drink just as popular and appealing as its winter holiday predecessors— the eggnog latte and peppermint mocha. The idea of “pumpkin spice” has been around much longer than the latte itself. The spice blend, intended to flavor an otherwise bland pumpkin pie, is featured in 18th-century cookbooks. And in the 1930s, spice companies like McCormick introduced Pumpkin Pie Spice to the culinary world of the at-home baker. 

Food and Wine magazine notes that it was not until 2015 that real pumpkin was used in the recipe for pumpkin spice lattes. And as the drink has become more authentic throughout the years, its popularity has also surged. Yashfa Anwar, a MH student and Starbucks worker, shared, “The last time I worked, we sold 42 in 4 hours.” She opined, “It adds to the feeling of October, the start of Halloween. And it’s easy to make. All it takes is pumpkin sauce and some barista experience.”

Its influence on mainstream culture might just boil down to economics. Virginia Tech economics professor Jadrian Wooten attributes the pumpkin spice latte’s success to its scarcity. In a recent article from the university, Wooten claims that “the joy from these items comes from the fact that they aren’t available two-thirds of the year.”

Even though the latte is enjoyed by many, one may be judged for joining in on the trend.’s slang dictionary acknowledges social media backlash by defining a “basic girl” as someone who likes “pumpkin spice lattes, UGG boots, and taking lots of selfies…” Senior Emily Hao commented on this discourse, saying, “People make fun of girls too much for drinking pumpkin spice lattes. If they enjoy it, it’s not like they’re hurting anyone.” 

One can call PSLs basic or overrated, but the seasonal latte’s influence is undeniable. These drinks can be found not only at Starbucks but also at Dunkin, where it is best served iced, and local coffee shops. Although small businesses may not serve the exact blend or drink, they usually have fall specials that are just as cozy.

Embrace the fall with a pumpkin spice latte — you may like it!