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Are Pumpkin Spice Lattes Overrated?

By Gabrielle Jaipersaud

It’s finally autumn. The leaves are changing colors, the weather is getting colder and fall festivities are in full swing. But there’s one autumn staple that most people eagerly await: the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte also known as the PSL for those in the know.

First invented in 2003 by Starbucks beverage creators, the PSL quickly rose to fame and became one of the most popular seasonal drinks of all time. Prior to this, pumpkin spice was limited to the bakery aisles of the grocery store and not used for much else other than pumpkin pies. A 2023 CBS article cited a study that said the pumpkin spice industry made $488 million last season and has grown to be a lifestyle for many people throughout the autumn.

This flavor and scent bring about warm feelings of nostalgia and coziness, but is there too much hype surrounding this fall fad?

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a combination of espresso and steamed milk mixed with a pumpkin sauce of pumpkin puree and condensed milk. Topped with whipped cream and spices, this beverage has 50 grams of sugar, which is more than the recommended daily intake of 24-36 grams of sugar. Due to the high sugar content, some students agree that the PSL may not be worth all the hype.

First-year Ariana Balanta, a major in physics, offered her input. “I think your typical Pumpkin Spice Latte is overrated. It’s really sweet and there are better drinks you can get. The pumpkin spice flavor is only good when done right, not by overloading it with sugar.”

Both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts offer multiple variations of the original PSL, such as a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew or the newly released Dunkin’ Ice Spice Munchkins Drink.

“The Ice Spice Munchkin drink is what the Dunkin’ franchise believed people would like but it had the opposite effect,” Balanta said. “People don’t like it because of the oversold pumpkin spice idea. The drink, at its core, is incredibly sugary.”

Many companies have capitalized on the idea of pumpkin spice, creating an overwhelming amount of pumpkin-related products. This includes pumpkin spice deodorant, air freshener and even toothpaste.

“Pumpkin spice is fine, but in moderation,” said first-year studio art major Kiondra Parris. “Pumpkin spice everything is too much… I actually love when Pumpkin Spice Lattes come out [in the fall]. It’s better than coffee and gets you into the season.”

Consumers enjoy the feeling of comfort they get when drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte on a cozy autumn day. Since they’re on the menu for a limited amount of time, PSL lovers order them as often as they can, contributing to their heightened popularity.

Third-year Syd Cianciotto agrees with this sentiment. “It’s not overrated because it’s seasonal and it only comes around for a short time. It’s definitely an acquired taste and isn’t for me. There are so many more fall scents and flavors that I find much more appealing.”

Starbucks, in addition to their famous Pumpkin Spice Lattes, released other drinks to accompany their fall lineup, such as the Iced Apple Crisp Shaken Espresso and the Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato, but both are outshined by the frenzy of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

The price of the Starbucks PSL is another issue some have with this drink. Anisha Shaikh, a freshman majoring in biology, expressed their dislike for the drink.

“The prices are too high for a drink that doesn’t even have a strong pumpkin flavor,” they said. “I want less spice, more pumpkin. They’re not bad; they’re just overrated and the most basic option when you think of fall drinks. We tend to forget about lesser-known drink flavors such as apple crisp, which gives the same cozy, autumnal feeling.”

“Is it even made of real pumpkin?” Shaikh continued. “It just tastes like milk and sugar.”

So are Pumpkin Spice Lattes truly overrated? Although several believe they are, many fall lovers and avid coffee consumers look forward to these seasonal drinks for several autumns to come. They remain a seasonal staple and don’t appear to be leaving the menu anytime soon.

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