Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes™ have no pumpkin in them [Updated]

Illustration for article titled Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes™ have no pumpkin in them [Updated]

Update 9/2015: Due to pressure from the anti-science blogger known as the Food Babe (whom we hold in extremely high regard around these parts), Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes™ now have pumpkin in them. But we maintain that they are still an affront to humanity.


Starbucks is rolling out pumpkin spice lattes, starting with an early access option that starts today. This means it’s the time of year for everyone’s favorite overpriced seasonal beverage. This doesn’t mean we’ll be adding extra pumpkin to our diet, because Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes™, despite the name, contain no pumpkin.

Look, I am not a Pumpkin Spice Hater. I am pretty much the exact type of person you’d think likes the damned things. I would gladly guzzle a bucket of Starbucks’ devilishly tasty autumn juice. I also love Sephora and Sex and the City (I am a mix of Carrie and Miranda, thanks for asking). I’m the person twirling around in a tweed jacket remarking on how CRISP it feels outside as I sip on my drink.

This is not a screed borne of condescension, but of truth-seeking.

We are not warming our hands on a product containing even a lick of orange gourd goodness.

Many of Starbucks’ drinks are unhealthy, and it’s not like the PSL™ is unique in the way the name does not match up with the ingredients. I’m guessing there’s no gingerbread in the Gingerbread latte, and there’s sure as hell no Oprah in the Teavana® Oprah Chai. But the PSL™ has attained such a devoted fan base that the fundamental dishonesty behind the name is especially rankling. Sure, Starbucks will admit that the drink is pumpkin-free. But it still puts the word “pumpkin” front and center, and it really shouldn’t. It shouldn’t even want to. Have you tasted raw pumpkin? It tastes like dirt, not Halloween. Starbucks has invented a superior flavor, which they should celebrate. They just shouldn’t masquerade it as remotely related to pumpkins.

Here are some more appropriate suggestions:

1) Fall spice latte

2) Autumn spice latte

3) White girl latte

4) We’re all going to die, eventually, and might as well enjoy our mediocre artificially flavored hot drink latte


5) Pumpkin-spice latte (hyphen added to denote that it contains spices designed to emulate the idea of how pumpkin tastes, and not both pumpkin and spices)

Any other suggestions, dear readers? There are several very tasty-looking pumpkin spice latte recipes available online that contain real pumpkin and other non-gross ingredients. You could make those and feel especially zen as you cavort among the leaves as they change shades. Or, like me, you can just continue guiltily ordering Starbucks’ bogus ass drink because you’re lazy and it does, objectively, taste delicious. Whether or not you’re jumping ship, we should all agree on one thing: the thing needs to be called by its true name.


(Update 2: A very gracious Starbucks spokesperson responded. They pointed out the same thing my dear commentariat pointed out: that the lattes are named after pumpkin spice, the spice mix. “The Pumpkin Spice Latte has become the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time, and we do not have plans to change the recipe,” a spokesperson told me. Fair enough. I still think the name has confused people over the years and the whole “there’s no pumpkin” thing was worth pointing out.)

Image credit: Jeff Wilcox/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)



Sleestak Chopra

Regardless of how you feel about Starbucks or their drinks, please let's not start quoting Vani Hari, who is well known to make irresponsible claims (many refuted by researchers, nutritionists and food scientists) based on half-understood internet science and then spreads the word to her understandably brainwashed followers, usually moms worried about their family's welfare. These poor people are confused by the internet's inundation of half-truths and changing factoids and just want someone to tell them what's true. They have no science or nutrition background and can't tell fact from fantasy. She's counting on it. The food babe is the scientifically illiterate leading the scientifically illiterate.

Most importantly, she is selling a product. Several, actually. She makes her living now selling a string of branded and stamp of approval products to her followers. Beware any "expert" who sells products based on bad mouthing similar ones.