Enjoy the flavor of the season: pumpkin spice

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psl
Art by Christina Wang

For the last couple of years, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) has been a staple for many coffee lovers, especially during the autumn, because it reminds us that the big holidays are right around the corner. Plus, it’s a nice warm drink meant for the colder weather.

Although the PSL originated from Starbucks, many other cafés have started putting this popular drink on their menus as well, including Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s McCafé, and 7-Eleven. With PSLs now readily available in a variety of places, one question remains clear — which has the best?

Starbucks

Starbucks is known to make the best PSL. When people think of PSLs, they immediately think of this brand and its famous green logo. Out of all the places I visited, Starbucks sold the most expensive latte, with a Tall size starting at $4.15 without tax. At Starbucks you can get this drink hot or cold. Appearance-wise, the PSL looked promising. Its color was reminiscent of a pumpkin and it was perfectly foamed. The texture was very creamy. In terms of taste, this PSL was sweeter than the rest, but it wasn’t overly sweet. It leaned more towards the pumpkin side than the spice side in flavor, to the point where it actually almost tasted fruity. The brew of the latte was medium to strong; the coffee flavor was apparent, but not overpowering. There was a slight artificial aftertaste, but overall the Starbucks PSL was good.

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts may not specifically serve a PSL, but they do have their own line of exclusive pumpkin-flavored coffees and lattes. This collection includes the Pumpkin Latte, Pumpkin Mocha Latte, and Pumpkin Crème Brulee Latte, which is the latest addition to this season’s lineup. This can be served hot or cold, but I opted for hot. A small starts at $2.39 without tax. The name sounds delicious and it looks beautiful, but the drink itself is lacking. There is no pumpkin or crème brulee flavor in this beverage. It is plain coffee, which is great if your intention was to fulfill your caffeine fix, but then you might as well save yourself a dollar and just get the regular coffee. It wasn’t too bitter, but it could’ve used more sugar. Additionally, the gorgeous foam atop the coffee takes up roughly a third of the space in the small cup. The Pumpkin Crème  Brulee Latte is neither worth your time nor money.

McDonald’s

McDonald’s has also jumped onto the pumpkin spice bandwagon. The Golden Arches started selling this beverage last fall through their McCafé coffee brand, and brought it back this year. The prices start at $1.99 for a small without tax. Although it may not be as “Instagram-worthy” as the PSL from Starbucks, it still has an aesthetic appeal with a thin layer of white froth on top. However, the taste doesn’t seem to match up. The flavor is too light. If you weren’t told that this was a PSL, you would have never guessed it by the taste. Regardless of the fact that it has the perfect amount of sweetness, it is too diluted, and it practically tastes like a combination of sweet water and milk. It’s not aromatic, and after while it starts to taste like cardboard. If you’re thinking about buying a PSL from McDonald’s, do yourself a favor and don’t.

7-Eleven

7-Eleven may not be considered a formal restaurant or café, but that doesn’t stop them from selling pumpkin-flavored drinks. At 7-Eleven, they have a self-serve section where you can dispense the coffee, and add sugar and cream or milk to your liking. If you want to make it extra fancy, you can even add whipped cream. For mine I customized it with the addition of white granulated sugar and French vanilla cream from the brand International Delight. Of all the pumpkin spice coffees that I tried, this was the cheapest with the small starting at $1.49 without tax. It was also very flavorful, in part due to the way that I customized it. The coffee itself was tasty. The pumpkin spice flavor was apparent, but it wasn’t obnoxious. It was more so on the spice side, as you can taste the cinnamon, but there wasn’t as much pumpkin flavor. It had a medium brew, so the coffee wasn’t too strong or too weak. I was honestly surprised at the coffee from 7-Eleven; I expected it to taste terrible, but it turned out to be quite the bang for the buck.

The Verdict

Admittedly, the PSL from Starbucks was one of the best, but it seems to be overhyped. I believe that the pumpkin spice coffee from 7-Eleven is worth the try if you’re looking for a cheaper option, if you prefer the flavor of spice over pumpkin, or if you like the idea of being able to easily customize your PSL by yourself.

Regardless of where you get your PSL, I hope everyone stays warm and enjoys the season to come.

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