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Starbucks PSL: So what if it doesn't have real pumpkin?

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

It's time to defend the pumpkin spice latte

Pumpkin-pumped cookies, hot chocolate and smoothies are old news as pumpkin has taken on a whole new level of mania.

Now you can buy pumpkin pie-spiced candies, vodkaprotein powder and even Jell-O — you know something is legit when it gets its own Jell-O flavor. Although it turns out the pumpkin-pie flavored condoms were a hoax; you can put away that naughty pilgrim outfit now.

Of course the grand queen supreme of pumpkin-flavored food is the pumpkin spice latte.

Lining up to get a pumpkin spice latte on a cool morning is just as much a harbinger of fall as raking leaves, apple picking and suing the NFL. And this year Starbucks decided to blow everyone's minds by releasing it a whole month earlier. Even though I don't drink coffee and I've never had a PSL, I felt compelled to break out my imitation UGGS and non-decorative scarves in solidarity.

Unfortunately the PSL has gotten some rough treatment lately. People have been slamming it for its long list of additives, artificial colors and flavorings — none of which are real pumpkin. I'm not sure how this is surprising. Has anyone ever ordered a PSL and thought they were getting actual squash in their coffee? I mean, the syrup comes out of a bottle. And also: It's syrup.

So what if there's no real pumpkin in that latte? Let's be honest: We order a PSL or PSHC (pumpkin spice hot chocolate) or PSS (pumpkin spice steamer, my personal fave) because it's an indulgence, not because we're trying to get our five servings of fruits and vegetables in.

All the drama goes back to the originator of this fall trend: the humble pumpkin pie. While I admire our founding fathers' ingenuity in using whatever they had on hand to make a pie — I deeply wish I could have seen the first person to look at the gourd and say Yes! That will be my dessert — the end result is one step up from flan, which is to say it ranks about an eight on the things-that-feel-like-snot scale. (Also on my snot list: yogurt, tapioca pudding and Justin Bieber.)

If you're one of those people who has a whole latte love for the seasonal beverage, I say sip proudly from that cup. After all, it's only around for another few months. (Although at this rate it will soon be a year-round flavor. Don't do that Starbucks. Sometimes a drink needs to play hard to get.)

How do you feel about the ubiquitous pumpkin pie spice?

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