The story of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, your favourite fall drink

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaSep 09, 2022 | 08:00

The story of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, your favourite fall drink

The time for Pumpkin Spice Latte is finally here. Well, not if you are in India or many parts of the tropical world for that matter, but you get the vibe. Starbucks has officially declared it Fall with the Pumpkin Spice Latte back on its menu, and it has the long queues as evidence of its popularity.

Merriam-Webster too followed suit and added "Pumpkin Spice" to the dictionary this week. Pumpkin Spice was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary along with 369 other phrases related to food. 

Every autumn, there is a spike in the sales of pumpkin spice-related food, mostly in the West.

The foundation stones of this tradition were laid by nothing more than a beverage called the PSL (your friendly to-go Starbucks Halloween drink, the Pumpkin Spice Latte). 

The million-dollar latte: There is nothing more that Americans love about fall than PSL. No trend can ever replace it; not even the quarantine special, Dalgona Coffee. 


Starbucks has even given the drink its own Twitter account (verified, by the way) with over 88,400 "selected" followers.

The flavour that wasn't gonna make it: The Pumpkin Spice Latte was created in 2003 by a team at the company's "Liquid Lab". Peter Dukes is often referred to as "the Father of the Pumpkin Spice Latte". During his tenure at Starbucks, he led the team that created the company's most popular seasonal beverage ever.

Fun fact: The original PSL did not have any real pumpkin in it. (We will get to that in a bit.) 

Peter Duke, creator of the PSL. Photo: Facebook/Chowdaheadz

"Nobody knew back then what it would grow to be. It has taken on a life of its own," Dukes said on how the drink came to be.

Recap 2003: The Spice Latte flavour was among other drinks that were on trial for the fall season in 2003. The Spice Latte was competing with other drinks, like chocolate caramel or cinnamon-flavoured ones to make it to the prototype.

"We brought in pumpkin pies into our R&D lab and actually just poured shots of espresso on them, and ate them," said Dukes in an interview with CBS News.  Finally, the drink was introduced with a pumpkin flavour, since there wasn't anything special around.  

And while Starbucks is credited with starting the Pumpkin Spice craze, humans have apparently been fascinated with one of the main spices in the drink, nutmeg, for over 3,500 years.

Has PSL changed for the better? The drink was created in 2003. The sales of Starbucks started going up after the introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. 

The final recipe was tested in Vancouver, Canada, and Washington, US, in the fall of 2003. The sales exceeded expectations, and the drink was rolled out to all Starbucks locations the following year in America.

In August 2015, Starbucks introduced real pumpkin and removed the artificial colours after people started pointing out that the main ingredient - the one that the drink took its name after - was missing from the recipe.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte, a seasonal Starbucks drink, is on the menu till early November.

Last updated: September 09, 2022 | 08:00
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