Arts and Entertainment

There’s No Fall Without Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice Lattes are probably why fall still exists.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Camilla Cheng

Before there was pumpkin spice everything, there was fall; that dreadful time of the year when dirty, moist leaves get stuck on your shoes and you can’t tell if it’s summer or winter. However, in recent years, an autumn “aesthetic” has emerged: an obsession with “Instagram-able” fallen leaves, sweater weather, and of course, the pumpkin spice latte. So many chains offer the drink that all the choices might be overwhelming, so we visited three of the fastest-growing food chains in the U.S. to give you a glimpse of the taste of their pumpkin spice lattes.

Starbucks ($4.75)

5.0/5.0 stars

Our first stop was the Starbucks down Chambers Street that is situated right next to the 1, 2, and 3 train station. Starbucks, the epitome of the café industry, features a variety of drinks, from those in their ironically popular secret menus to the traditional espresso. Upon entering the dimly lit café, the harsh, busy mood of the city seemed to melt away. Customers sipped their drinks and typed away at their MacBooks while still more patiently waited for another warm round.

In a small cup with the signature Starbucks logo were our lattes, which smelled heavily of pumpkin spice seasoning. It was an adventure at first sip as the pumpkin spice latte topped with whipped cream led to a sweet tooth overload. When we had gotten over this, the spices characteristic of pumpkin spice lattes, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, produced a mouthwatering concoction. There has been little criticism for Starbucks’s drinks, and the same can be said for this fall variant. With the texture of an extremely creamy coffee and the aftertaste of a steaming cup of hot chocolate, it’s hard not to finish this drink within minutes unless you care to not burn your tongue.

Dunkin’ Donuts ($3.25)

2.5/5.0 Stars

Down by the A, C, and E trains is Dunkin’ Donuts, a brand most known for its array of glazed donuts and Munchkins. Although the store isn’t generally appreciated for its small selection of drinks and breakfast sandwiches, we headed to the small store to test its own take on the popular fall drink. As usual, the place was quiet and ordering lattes was a quick affair.

Dunkin’ Donuts’s pumpkin spice latte came in a dull brown cup and was as hot to the touch as it was to the tongue. When the burning sensation stopped, our first tastes were surprising. There was an excess of sugar and the latte tasted more like an Americano. Only near the bottom of the drink did we experience the spices that were usually offered in pumpkin spice lattes; however, they were so unabsorbed by the drink that the drink was quite disagreeable and led to a bad aftertaste.

McDonald’s ($2.00)

3.0/5.0 Stars

Just one short block from Stuyvesant itself, the popular fast-food chain is known for its inexpensive but questionable food and drink choices. Yet, the store is almost always booming with customers lining up to buy a cheap snack or meal. Characteristics of this McDonald’s are its impossibly long lines and slow serving times. Faint music is drowned out by the loud chatter of people socializing and employees yelling out order numbers.

At first taste, McDonald’s pumpkin spice latte was rather bland, reminiscent of instant lattes made from powder where you forgot to add sugar. On the visual side, the latte seemed lacking as well; there were no decorative spices like those that Starbucks had offered, and it looked like just another watery coffee. We began to doubt that they had even gotten our order right. However, as we kept drinking, a sugary cinnamon taste gradually became stronger. By our last sip, the latte was overwhelmingly sweet and left a sugary aftertaste, similar to the one someone gets after eating too much sweet candy. With the cost in consideration, the drink wasn’t horrible. It’s an inexpensive, sugary drink with the flavor of pumpkin spice that only appeals to those with a major sweet tooth.