You know fall has officially arrived when you start seeing pumpkin spice everywhere. Most famous in the form of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, you can now find it as a vodka, beer, cereal, and even hummus. Why does it seem like everyone is obsessed with “pumpkin spice?” How did it all get started?
Pumpkin pie is obviously the “truest” form of pumpkin spice, though back in the American colonies, people would fill plain baked pumpkins with spices, honey, and milk. Then the pie came along, but the actual spice blend came about in the 1950’s when McCormick sold a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg and called it “pumpkin pie spice.” In 1996, the spice became to edge its way into coffee. In Florida, Home Roast Coffee started making what they called “pumpkin spice beans,” whatever that means. It wasn’t until 2004 that pumpkin spice went nationwide.
In their “Liquid Lab,” Starbucks’ team of flavor engineers, led by Peter Dukes, came up with the pumpkin spice latte recipe. It consisted of espresso, steamed milk and a pumpkin-spice sauce of cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg, finished off with whipped cream. The recipe has stayed the same, except for the addition of real pumpkin and the removal of artificial caramel coloring. The drink was a hit, and Starbucks’ sales rose 11% the first year they made the seasonal sip. Since those early days, Starbucks has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice lattes, now abbreviated as PSL.
Is pumpkin spice really that good? Some would say “no,” but in its latte form, it’s so full of sugar, it’s naturally addicting. It’s also a cultural touchstone and somehow has become associated with Ugg-wearing, selfie-taking, white-female privilege. Some people become enraged when they see pumpkin spice, and entire blogs are devoted to finding the strangest pumpkin-spice products a person can find. Whether you love it or hate it, seeing pumpkin spice is a definite sign that summer is over, and it’s time to break out the scarves and if it’s your thing, the Ugg boots.