Our Love Affair with the Pumpkin Spice Latte


It’s that time of year again…when I earn “Gold” status at Starbucks, all thanks to one little drink: The Pumpkin Spice Latte. 

I knew I wanted to write about it – but didn’t expect the #PSL frenzy that hit on social media and newsrooms across the country. Everyone’s writing and talking about it. Everyone’s coming out with a pumpkin spice product (Pumpkin spice deodorant?!? No thank you.). And it got me thinking…

Why are we so in love with Pumpkin Spice? 

Yes, it’s delicious. But I think it’s more than that. We have lots of delicious food items available to us, but you don’t see “warm chocolate chip cookie deodorant” as a new and improved scent hitting the market like we did for Pumpkin Spice this year. 

I am not clamoring for every Pumpkin Spice product out there. But I have been asking about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks since August. I’ve also figured out through the years that long after it has disappeared from stand-alone Starbucks stores, you can still order it in the grocery store pop-up Starbucks. 

So why…why am I obsessed with the Pumpkin Spice Latte?!? I took a good look at my emotions/reactions to the beverage and here’s what I found. I’m curious if it also applies to you. 

It officially marks the fall season in a season-less state.

In beautiful Flagstaff, we get to enjoy cooler temperatures and fall colors, but I grew up in the southern part of Arizona – where I would end up getting sent home from school sick and overheated if I dared wear a long sleeve shirt before November.

I fell in love with the Pumpkin Spice Latte while living in Phoenix…where fall is definitely, um, missing. 

Even in Flagstaff, though, I find myself “forcing fall.” Trying to pair fall boots with a long sleeve top and “light” jacket, only to be stripping down layers midday and lamenting that I didn’t shave my legs because it’s just too hot for anything longer than capris. 

The Pumpkin Spice Latte gives us all the feeling of fall, without any of the sweating that results from too-cozy of clothes for the weather. 

The flavor is associated with being thankful. 

There’s no pumpkin in your Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s the spice that’s used to make pumpkin pies. And when do we all enjoy Pumpkin Pies? Thanksgiving. 

It’s my favorite holiday, because it feels like one of the few “pure” holidays left. Yes there’s lots of controversy about how the actual first Thanksgiving went down…but today there’s no Thanksgiving Turkey hiding pumpkins in our yards. We aren’t taking our kids to the mall and standing in long lines to pose for pictures. Pinterest seems to blissfully be devoted to ideas for expressing thankfulness. And the list goes on.  

Thanksgiving is a time to pause and show genuine gratitude. And that’s rare in today’s world. 

Back in my marketing days, I remember reading a study about sensory connection and how successful realtors will bake cookies or burn a candle smelling of freshly baked cookies for open houses. The smell connects to subconscious, happy memories and creates a feeling of happiness and home in the house for sale. 

I think it’s the same for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Because I have always loved our family Thanksgivings, I take a sip and remember those moments. 

There are health benefits. 

I’m not talking “there’s carrot in this cake” health benefits…but real ones, making it an “okay” treat.

Milk (the stuff they make a latte with) is loaded with 8 grams of protein per serving and three of the four nutrients listed as being of critical concern by the USDA – Vitamin D, calcium and potassium. It’s the No. 1 source for calcium in the American diet, and thanks to its Vitamin D content, it’s one of the more easily absorbed calciums to consume. 

A serving of milk is 8 ounces. A grande latte has between 8 and 11 ounces of milk. Go Venti and you can safely check off two of the recommended three servings of milk and dairy a day! 

The protein and nutrients are in every serving of milk – whether you enjoy skim, 1 percent, 2 percent or whole. So load up! 

All this combined makes for a great mom escape! 

Let’s be real. Very few of us have the resources needed to ever truly detox from the nonstop pace of parenting. It’s constant pressure, judgment and weighing options to ensure we’re making good choices…good God, I even write as if I’m talking to my 6-year-old! 

So when we have an opportunity to drive-thru an establishment and pick up a little cup of fall bliss without catching a sideways glance from our significant others about how much we spent….I say, GO FOR IT. 

A friend shared a tested and approved home alternative to the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. You know how long ago that was? At least three weeks. You know how many alternative Pumpkin Spice Lattes I’ve made? ZERO. 

I’ve been feeling guilty about it…like I’m so terrible for not having tried it and also having made time to try every pumpkin spice product out there to give you all some amazing portrait of Pumpkin Spice options.

But I’m over it. For what it costs, we can’t even hire a babysitter for an hour. But we can spend a couple minutes in a drive-thru picking up a big ol’ Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte to sip all morning…enjoying instant fall, happy memories, and valid health benefits. 

Our lives are busy. We are stressed creatures. And whether my reasons listed above are right or wrong, I’m going to continue visiting the darn Starbucks drive-thru and enjoying the #PSL until it’s gone for another season.  

What’s your favorite Pumpkin Spice product?

Am I missing out having not figured out something better than my go-to Starbucks #PSL? Tell me all about it in the comments. 

Much Love – H