It can begin as early as the first week of September: the orange grocery store displays, the sudden appearance of Jack-o-Lanterns and poorly cut out construction paper leaves. Pumpkin Spice and all its related products suddenly crowd our every sensory receptor. Pumpkin beer, Pumpkin Candles, Pumpkin Spice hand sanitizer, Pumpkin Spice themed cover’s of songs, and of course Pumpkin Spice lattes suddenly appear.
What makes this drink so popular? Is it the sugar rush that comes after consuming a 16oz beverage, as detailed in Yahoo Health’s article, “Your body after drinking a pumpkin spice latte” or is the that feeling of nostalgia that comes with the changing leaves and ever thickening layers of clothing required for a Wisconsin winter? While undoubtedly a delicious beverage, and just one of many ways to enjoy coffee, one still has to wonder just what all the fuss is about. I had the chance to sit down with several Milwaukee baristas and discuss the collective hysteria surrounding Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
Evan McAllister is a art history graduate student at UWM, who’s barista career spans about tens years. From the Worm Hole in Chicago, to Colectivo and Anodyne, Evan has earned his sea legs when it comes to working with an espresso machine. So when it comes to the popularity of Pumpkin Spice lattes at coffee shops versus traditional drinks, it can be a mystery.
“I don’t understand why it’s super popular,” Evan said. “There’s something about the pumpkin spice latte, it’s really earthy. That’s really odd to me. Those flavors exist already naturally in coffee, so it’s odd to me that someone would add that, like the vegetal earth flavors.”
While certain roasts and brands of coffee vary in quality and flavor, in general coffee does possess natural flavor to it when drank without additional cream or sugar. However, the unopposed king of all fall beverages is still pumpkin space lattes in all their warm, orangey goodness. But this may have not always been so, says Sara Mattson who has worked as a barista in Milwaukee for 20 years. I asked Sara if Pumpkin Spice lattes had gained steamed over the years.
“There was nothing like (pumpkin spice lattes) back in the mid to late 90’s.” Sara said. “Café culture was way different back than.”
Perhaps you contribute the change in coffee drinking culture to the smoking ban in cafes, as detailed in this article by Tal Rosenberg.
“Smoking didn’t make coffee shops any cooler or better, but what it did do was attract a certain type of clientele, which in turn alienated a large portion of the rest of the population.”
Could the rise in popularity for sugar-laced drinks be related to a different customer base in coffee shops? Or do we just enjoy seasonal things and all the warm fuzzies they provide. Whether you are team Pumpkin Spice or a black coffee kind of consumer, this drink is here to stay.