Love it or hate it, it’s pumpkin spice everything season and there is no in-between. Whether you’re the person tweeting “pumpkin spice is in the air” or the person posting PSL memes, you can thank Starbucks for the ability to do both. Although the pumpkin and coffee flavor wasn’t anything new – and Starbucks didn’t invent it – they did put it on the map.
Yes, the pumpkin spice flavor existed before Starbucks’ 2003 release of the PSL, but that’s all it did: Exist. In fact, PSL wasn’t even what people wanted. In 2003, Starbucks began researching and developing an autumn drink to replicate the success of its holiday Peppermint Mocha, which debuted in the 2002-2003 season. Starbucks lovers were asked to survey a list of 20 possible fall drinks compiled by the product team. Surprisingly, the top-voted drinks involved chocolate and caramel. And, with only the top 4 drinks coming to life, the pumpkin spice flavor fell flat in the middle of the list.
However, something about the pumpkin pie flavor stood out to Peter Dukes, the espresso team product manager in the early 2000s, and he decided to throw it in the hat too. The team moved on to developing the flavor in their secure liquid lab by eating pie and drinking espresso. They settled on the flavor of pumpkin and spices of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and even went with using pumpkin sauce instead of syrup to imitate a pie. In the fall of 2003, the drink was released in a limited number of stores and was an instant hit after being released nationwide in the U.S. the following year.
Today, everyone wants a piece of the pumpkin pie. The autumn pumpkin spice market has expanded from a 7-Eleven machine-brewed pumpkin spice latte to a pumpkin spice deodorant from Native. What’s better than smelling like a walking pumpkin spice candle instead of body odor?
Are we surprised that a corporate coffee giant with marketing guns and bullets made of money was able to influence us and our taste buds into giving them an estimated $1.4 billion in the 14 years since the PSL rolled out?
If, like me, you enthusiastically thought that the PSL was a basic fad that would soon disappear, you underestimated the genius of a limited-time product. By definition, the PSL is a word-for-word fad, but one that returns every August (yes, August). With almost 20 years of profits under its belt, the PSL isn’t goin anywhere.
But… That’s because it’s not really about the PSL. It’s about the nostalgia of fall. Whether you’re the person who was freaking out about the pumpkin spice latte shortage amidst the 2012 presidential election or the person who thinks about the PSL more along the lines of putting “yoga pants, Ugg boots, a hoodie, an iPhone 5, and a white girl into the blender,” no doubt about it, you love the season’s vibes. It’s no coincidence, we all love fall, its crisp autumn air, foliage, flannels, beanies, candles, and of course Halloween. Pumpkin spice just brings back all the feels.
So come feel the feels with our limited time pumpkin spice mead, Basic Witch, and the crisp autumn air on our cozy patio. And on this Saturday (Oct 22) and Sunday (Oct 23) especially, enjoy the season entirely by stopping by before or after the Little 5 Halloween Festival and Parade. Spooky season, boozy pumpkin spice, and fall in the air… what could be better?