Judging Java: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Coffee Columnist

4 Globes

Two years ago, after years of having pumpkin spice lattes hyped up to me, I went to Point Perk and ordered one. It was terrible, and I thought to myself “why would anyone drink this?” In the last two years, I have not had a single pumpkin spice latte, going so far that when my girlfriend would order them and offer me a sip, I would turn her down.

This year, in honor of Halloween, I realized that at this point I have no choice but to review a pumpkin spice latte. I considered multiple different coffee shops, but I ultimately settled on Starbucks because that’s where pumpkin spice lattes originated. First offered in 2003, they’ve become a mainstay of the fall season. The development of Starbucks is actually fascinating—they opened in the 70s, but didn’t actually start becoming a major chain until the 90s. Now they’re the largest coffee chain in the world. Think about what a cultural mainstay the Pumpkin Spice Latte has become to the fall season in under 20 years. That’s how big Starbucks is.

Luckily, because of how Starbucks is, I can get a Pumpkin Spice Latte basically anywhere, which is good because I am now a huge fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It is easily the best drink that Starbucks offers, a title that was previously held by the Peppermint Mocha. What’s interesting about that is that both drinks are a seasonal drink, and I wonder if part of the reason I think they’re so good is because of the limited nature of them. Or it might be that because they don’t offer it year round they are able to prioritize a higher quality.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is surprisingly refreshing, with a perfect amount of steamed milk, espresso, cinnamon and pumpkin flavoring topped with delicious whipped cream pumpkin-pie seasoning. And when I say delicious whipped cream, I mean absolutely delicious whipped cream. Starbucks has some of the best whipped cream anywhere. I do not usually order coffee drinks that come with whipped cream, but I have noticed that when I do, it’s almost always exclusively drinks from Starbucks. Their whipped cream is rich and creamy, but not rich enough that it distracts from the actual drink that it’s topping. In a way, it is the perfect whipped cream, serving only to enhance the drink that it’s topping.

Flavor-wise, this drink is exactly as advertised. It’s a latte seasoned with pumpkin seasoning and other fall spices, mostly cinnamon. The flavor is rich, but it never feels over seasoned, the pumpkin flavoring adds to the espresso and never clashes or oversteps. The flavors blend incredibly well together.

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is so good that I will be ordering it every time I go to Starbucks until they stop offering it again. It is exactly the type of thing Starbucks excels at: a tasty drink less notable for it being coffee, and more notable for it being good. I am also very annoyed now that Point Perk whiffed the Pumpkin Spice Latte I ordered in 2019, because I could have been drinking these for the past two Falls.