Featured Opinions

Back to Basics

By Hayley Shulze, Contributor


Autumn [aw-tuh-m], noun: A time of year where riding boots, scarves and sweaters come out of hibernation to enjoy none other than Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, better known as “PSL.” See also: fall, basic and epidemic.

Last week, on Wednesday, September 23, the autumn equinox took place, marking the first official day of fall. Every “basic” girl knows this can mean only one thing: Starbucks brings back the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and all becomes right with the autumn season. I have heard about these acclaimed PSLs, but have never actually tried one for myself. I became inspired and determined to see if this raging coffee beverage was truly up to par, and thus began my mission into the great unknown.

I brought along two sidekicks who also had not experienced the famous pumpkin beverage outbreak, Stephanie Grochmal and Susie Morphis, both Furman University juniors. Upon arriving at the local Starbucks, the three of us had to fight our way through the sea of sweater-wearing, gum-smacking girls who were waiting for their own PSLs. Upon reaching the register, the cashier was not at all surprised at our order. He commented that, with the start of the new season, just about every other order is a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

As we waited patiently for our drinks — two PSLs and one Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino — we watched in astonishment as the baristas flawlessly prepared the plethora of famous fall beverages from memory. For this piece, I knew I had to capture a picture of the drinks. However, the majority of the crowd assumed that it was for the sake of my Instagram aesthetics. After the relentless process, we finally held the distinguished white Starbucks cups in our hands, toasting each other before we all took a sip only to stare at each other. In complete horror.

How could a drink so expensive—over four dollars for the smallest size—taste so mediocre? The best way I could describe the taste of my own Pumpkin Spice Latte is a combination of pumpkin puree, burnt popcorn and sadness. Stephanie thought that her own Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino tasted something along the lines of cold, raw pumpkin goop. Susie, on the other hand, did not completely disown her beverage, but still could not see what the frenzy was about.

Overall, Pumpkin Spice Latte, I have to give you lousy score. My taste buds, and my wallet, are far more satisfied with a regular coffee or tea. If you are already a lover of the PSL, then congratulations. Continue enjoying your basic beverage. However, if you are like I was, curious and fascinated, allow me caution you to maybe go ahead and skip this epidemic. Try a medium-sized hot coffee with steamed milk and caramel, which is less than three dollars, tastes much better than the grotesqueness of the PSL and still provides you with a soothing fall flavor.

In closing, I guess there is truly only one thing left to say: God save us for when the peppermint mocha returns.

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