Have you ever tried the notorious PSL? Do you take out a bank loan every fall just to keep up the daily habit of indulging in a pumpkin flavored coffee? I'm one to hop on most trends that our generation cycles through, but the PSL is one that I really haven't wanted to be a part of. 

What is the PSL?

If you didn't already know, the PSL is a pumpkin spice latte. This consists of espresso, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pumpkin pie spice, and of course, pumpkin puree. Starbucks first introduced this drink in 2003 but it really picked up speed in 2008 during the recession and was adopted as a "comfort food". Since then, pumpkin has been the focus of an entire season; during autumn you can find companies putting pumpkin in anything, including candles, lip balm, deodorant, air freshener, perfume, baked goods, etc. I first tried a PSL about a year or two ago, and in all honesty I hated it. It just tasted like squash and sugar (which is quite literally what the PSL is) with some whipped cream on top to distract from the overwhelming flavors of the spices. So, I swore it off and planned on never ordering any pumpkin drink again. But 2020 has been the year of surprises and personal growth, so I figured, why not give it another shot?

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a completely personal decision. I thought it'd make a nice story for this article, so here we are. If you're like me and don't enjoy pumpkin but want to know if the Starbucks PSL is worth the purchase, you're in the right place. 

The Taste Test

Rebecca Bartiromo

I went over to my nearest Starbucks and ordered a tall Pumpkin Spice Iced Latte with whipped cream. Not gonna lie, I took one whiff and it was a bit nauseating; I could basically taste the sugar through my nostrils. This held true through my first few sips as well, which led me to almost give up on trying to enjoy it. Coming in hot at $6 for a shot of espresso and pumpkin puree, I was expecting an entryway to the golden gates of heaven and angels playing harps. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this drink definitely did not live up to its hype, or its price. I did enjoy the nutmeg and caramel, but the pumpkin itself was just overwhelming, and oddly enough reminded me of the smell of playdough? 

I have to give it at least a little bit of credit: once I mixed in the whipped cream, the drink was actually bearable, maybe even a little enjoyable. The only reason I didn't throw it out was because I hate wasting food and I had just spent half of my gas money for the week on a sip of squash flavored coffee. I know, I am being dramatic, but I think it's capturing my experience with PSL. 

coffee, chocolate, condiment
Annie Lee

The Final Say

If you haven't already gathered, my final review of the PSL is that it is definitely not worth its hype, or its price. 

However, if you're still looking for something to enjoy in the fall, you still have plenty of options. My personal choice is the iced Salted Caramel Mocha, which I actually really enjoy. The toffeenut sauce partners perfectly with the bold coffee flavor, and the addition of sea salt and turbinado sugar gives it an extra kick. Although it is sugary, it is not overwhelmingly sweet, for those of us who prefer bolder coffee drinks.

There is no doubt at all that there are plenty of people who are perfectly content with spending hundreds of dollars a year on the PSL, and I'm happy for them. However, I don't think the pumpkin spice fan club is a community I will ever be a part of. Maybe this review comes off as hyperbolic and dramatic, or maybe it encapsulates exactly what you were thinking all along too. At the end of the day, we all just need something to look forward to, and for some people that is the PSL. As for the rest of us, I think we'll be alright.