Here’s What Happened When I Tried a Pumpkin Spice Latte for the First Time

Photo by Starbucks
Let’s just say I’m not the only thing that’s basic.

Love it or hate it, during this time of year Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes are the talk of the town.

Affectionately dubbed PSL for short, this seasonal beverage has everyone—particularly “basic” (meaning regular schmegular) UGG-wearing college girls—losing their minds every fall and this year I decided to join in.  

As someone who didn’t shy away from wearing UGG boots and sweatpants in college while listening to Taylor Swift and carrying a Vera Bradley backpack, it’s safe to say that I partially identify with the stereotypes associated with the “basic girl” even though I’m black. One trend I had never tried, however, was the pumpkin spice latte–until yesterday. The main reason I’d never tried a pumpkin spice latte was actually not a refusal to “conform,” but rather the belief that pumpkin spice was an acquired taste I just didn’t have.

It's been 12 years since the brand first introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Back in 2003, an era long before pumpkin flavoring invaded the food world, the company wasn't sure the concept would take off. Starbucks hadn't even set out to make a pumpkin drink; it had at one point considered making an "orange cream" creation instead. Not even the name was certain, since the brand almost went with the moniker "Fall Harvest Latte." But alas a fall star was born. 

My colleagues thought I was a tad stir crazy—and it didn’t help that I was wearing a spiced-orange colored cardigan—but I was determined to get my hands on the caffeinated beverage. Lucky for me, there's a Starbucks right downstairs from the the offices (and pretty much every other street corner in New York).

I brought along one of my more PSL-enlighted office besties, you know for Instagram pictures and to explain the Starbucks sizing I’ve yet to memorize. I ordered a medium (I mean, grande)—and debated if I should get the drink iced, but in order to qualify as basic I had to stick with the hot coffee. Oh and I got whipped cream, as you all should.

Waiting for the drink was excruciating. The anticipation was too much. I played with the sugar pumps to pass time, and dreamt of all the simple carbohydrates I was about to consume—50 grams to be exact.

Then I heard my name. I waited a few minutes before taking a sip and when I finally did, I got a mouth full of whipped cream. Go figure. 

I’ve heard people describe PSL’s like taking a 20-minute nap on a soft bed of pumpkin pie with whipped cream as a pillow, covered in a blanket of leaves as your kitten cuddles close next to you while you snuggle by a crackling fire. But, the easiest way to describe this drink after trying it is with one word: basic. 

“Did I get a dud?” I thought to myself. Like forreal? It tasted like some regular ole overpriced coffee, and not very pumpkin-y at all. Sure I could smell the “spices” and appreciated that the drink was orange (my favorite color), but the aftertaste from hell made me wonder if I should have just stuck with my regular Starbucks order or least sprung to include the diabetes-inducing amount of sugar I normally add to my coffee drinks.

Now don’t get me wrong it wasn’t the most terrible thing I've ever had, but by no means did it remind me of slurping on a big fat spicy pumpkin. My high expectations weren’t met much to my basic dismay.

Nonetheless it made for a nice warm drink in a freezing office and more than likely I’ll get another, because I’m basic and that’s just what basic people do. 

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