The pumpkin spice latte is well-known as the fall season’s staple beverage. The final third of every year is often welcomed by pumpkin spice devotees sharing their excitement about the product surfacing back on to the menus of their favorite coffee chains.
It wouldn’t be fall without it.
According to Bustle, Starbucks, not only the seemingly most well-known distributor of the coffee creation, is also said to have played a major role in conceiving of the idea of the pumpkin spice latte. Peter Dukes, Starbucks’ product manager in 2003, started experimenting with various coffee flavors after noticing the popularity of the brand’s holiday-based beverages, such as the peppermint mocha. He and his team landed on the pumpkin spice flavor after combining pumpkin pie and espresso.
I decided to sample four pumpkin spice lattes from the locations I presumed students were most likely to frequent for a caffeine boost: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Pumpkin spice flavor: 4.5/5
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was first on my list to try out. As someone who has only moderately enjoyed pumpkin spice-flavored concoctions in the past, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I savored the flavor of the franchise’s take on the drink.
I was immediately impressed by a prominent cinnamon flavor at first sip of The Coffee Bean’s pumpkin spice latte, creating the feeling of coziness often sought-after during the fall season. Despite the drink’s strong cinnamon flavor, The Coffee Bean toned down other flavors, such as sweetness. The beverage provided the perfect tinge of sugar – the kind I enjoy in flavored lattes – without leaving behind a nauseatingly sweet aftertaste as some syrups often do. With that said, none of the flavors were too overpowering, each in harmony with one another, creating my favorite blend of the four.
Pumpkin spice flavor: 3.5/5
I was also quite stunned by the quality of the pumpkin spice latte served at Kerckhoff Coffeehouse. I expected a campus coffee shop to offer worse renditions of the drink compared to the more widespread chains, but instead I was given a latte with an interesting flavor: all pumpkin, very little spice. While I felt Kerckhoff somewhat missed the point of the drink, the taste of the bright orange squash was still delicious and gave the beverage a flavor that set it apart from the other locations I visited.
Pumpkin spice flavor: 2/5
Starbucks appeared next on my list, and as I made the trek from campus to Westwood, I expected to soon taste the best version of the drink, given that Starbucks fans seem to cause the most excitement surrounding the beverage. However, Starbucks’ version of the otherwise-comforting drink was bland and unexciting. I felt as if all of the flavors were relatively mild and mushed together in a way that the drink barely held any flavor as a whole. Drinking the latte essentially felt like gulping a mouthful of overpowering, much-too-creamy foam, and then a watered-down drink of a flavor I would hesitate to call pumpkin spice.
Pumpkin spice coffee: 4/5
Thankfully, Peet’s Coffee balanced out the disappointment from my Starbucks cup. While not quite as warm and inviting as my favorite blend of the day – The Coffee Bean’s – the latte from Peet’s also contained a true pumpkin spice flavor. Similarly, it was not too overpowering nor overly sweet, but I did find it was less creamy and full than The Coffee Bean’s.
I found that each coffee hub offered its own perks for the pumpkin spice latte, each with a separate palette of pros and cons. While Starbucks’ drink did not appeal to me in the least, it could be the ideal flavor of choice for others. Westwood Village’s inclusion of three relatively large coffee chains allows for students and the Westwood community to choose among versions the staple, trendy fall drink based on which factors appeal to them most.