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The Evolution of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By Isabella Fredrickson

A few weeks ago, the famed flavor of pumpkin spice returned once again to Starbucks’ worldwide, kickstarting the beginning of fall.

While Arizona’s weather is still in the hundreds, we can’t embrace the warm sweaters and scarves associated with Fall quite yet. But, we can at least enjoy the well-known and well-favored concoction of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and spice.

While the famous PSL began at Starbucks, the flavor of “pumpkin spice” is everywhere. Every coffee shop you visit has their own adaptation of a pumpkin spice latte — even Mcdonalds has their own version of it.

Note: Not a fan of coffee but craving the pumpkin flavor? There’s the pumpkin spice Frappuccino, or the pumpkin spice Chai Tea Latte, also available in an iced version. 

The flavor is not just for drinks either. Head to a grocery store and you’ll find “pumpkin spice” plastered everything, including candles, cakes, and much more.

There is no denying that pumpkin spice is essential to the Fall aesthetic and while most love the craze, it is unlikely they know where and why the hype started.

The pumpkin spice latte phenomenon was first developed in January 2003. After seeing how successful the Starbucks eggnog latte and peppermint mocha sales were during the winter season, Peter Dukes, director of Espresso Americas for Starbucks, wanted to expand the success into the Fall.

Originally, Starbucks tested for an ideal Fall drink with chocolate and caramel flavors, but this outshined the pumpkin. In an interview with The Daily Meal Dukes shared, “We realized there was something special around the pumpkin flavor [we developed], especially since there wasn’t anything around pumpkin at the time.”

The company spent time experimenting with recipes and ratios, and during the Fall season of 2003, the final recipe was tested in Washington, D.C., and Vancouver. The drink sales surpassed company expectations. The pumpkin spice latte made its official debut across all U.S. Starbucks the following year. 

According to Starbucks, the pumpkin spice latte was the company’s most popular seasonal beverage between 2003 and 2013, with over 200 million sales. Since the PSL was first released, over 424 million lattes have been sold worldwide, according to CNBC.

After that little history lesson, you can officially call yourself a PSL expert. Enjoy the Arizona sunshine and heat with an iced pumpkin spice flavored drink. 

*Featured Image via Starbucks Official Facebook


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