The pumpkin spice latte, or PSL, as it’s fondly known by Starbucks lovers made its debut on September 1st, marking the official beginning of the Fall season (according to the Starbucks calendar). Normally the PSL is embraced with open arms by eager fans trying to get their pumpkin spice fix before Christmas comes and then the drink vanishes into thin air. But this year, there has been a backlash on the beloved drink. Everything from “it contains no real pumpkin” to having a “toxic dose of sugar” has been buzzing through the interwebs. Are these claims legit? Let’s investigate…
No real pumpkin? Gasp! Certainly that authentic pumpkin flavor must be coming from real pumpkin? Nope! Personally, I am not concerned about this (and you shouldn’t be either). How many other coffee drinks have vegetables in them? Zero. The truth is that actual pumpkin is quite mild and does not have much flavor without being spiced up a bit. In cooking, pumpkin is almost always paired with fragrant fall spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; this aroma is what our brain associates with pumpkin flavor. Perhaps a renaming of this drink to a “fall spice latte” would be more accurate.
Let us move on to sugar. Sugar is basically the devil and we all know it (hehe). I’m not going to defend the amount of sugar that goes into the PSL, but I will say it can be modified to a more reasonable amount. By adding only 2 pumps of pumpkin spice syrup instead of 4 you can decrease the sugar by 10 grams. Each pump (of syrup) has 5 grams of sugar- the less pumps, the better. In comparison to the other specialty lattes the amount of sugar in the PSL is about the same, so I see no reason to hate on the PSL specifically for the sugar content.
Lastly, the PSL has come under fire for containing caramel coloring, which is considered a possible carcinogen in the state of California. Since I’m not a chemist, I’m not an expert on caramel coloring and the exact amounts that might be carcinogenic in humans, though I do know that caramel coloring is prevalent in our food supply in small amounts. All dark sodas contain caramel coloring. If you are interested in learning more I would check out this article by consumer reports.
In conclusion, I happily drink my PSL without too many concerns. I do not recommend drinking them on a daily basis nor do I recommend ordering a Venti because nothing that comes in a 24 ounce cup is good for you, except water. Next time you are craving for some “fall” spiced deliciousness I would try ordering a PSL like this: Tall nonfat (or soy) PSL, 2 pumps syrup, no whip. Just like that, you shave off over 100 calories from the original and decrease the sugar.
Are you a PSL lover or hater? What special requests do you make for your drink?