Some call it Fall, some call it Autumn. We’re calling it Pumpkin Spice Season – and this year, there’s extra cause to celebrate its arrival.
The famed Pumpkin Spice Latte is celebrating its 20th birthday in 2023. First beta-launched in Vancouver in ’03 before rolling out across the States and Canada, the drink has grown into a fan favourite, source of inspiration and symbol of the changing seasons for many. As the two-decade mark of its inception approaches, PSL lovers across the country can gear up to savour pumpkin spice treats all season long.
The complete Starbucks Fall 2023 menu will roll out across Canada on Thursday, August 24. All the classics will be available – the traditional PSL, of course, along with the popular Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. Bakery favourites like the Fox Sugar Cookie and Pumpkin Pepita Loaf will be returning as well.
A new addition, the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte, pairs a rich blend of spiced chai with pumpkin cream cold foam and a dusting of pumpkin spice. Starbucks is also introducing the Iced Apple Crisp Oat Shaken Espresso, which combines their Blonde Espresso with notes of apple, cinnamon and brown sugar, shaken together and topped with oat beverage. Fall-themed drinkware and grocery items like Pumpkin Spice Coffee Enhancer and flavoured coffee are also part of the seasonal offerings.
Whether you’re personally a fan of pumpkin spice or not, there’s no denying that the PSL is a cultural icon. To mark its 20th, we’re looking back on some of the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s most memorable moments.
Pumpkin Spice Timeline
2003: Meet the ‘father’ of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes
On a crisp fall day nearly two decades ago, the director of espresso Americas and his crew of visionaries gathered in the ‘Liquid Lab’ at Starbucks HQ in Seattle. Armed with forks, pumpkin pies, and shots of espresso, the team tinkered until their new creation was perfected: the so-called Pumpkin Spice Latte, made with pumpkin pie spices, espresso, steamed milk, and whip. It was an instant hit.
2012: The Pumpkin Spice Shortage
The success of the Pumpkin Spice Latte was perhaps no more evident than in 2012, when a shortage of the flavouring syrup pre-Halloween lead to widespread concern. News outlets from Time to The Atlantic covered it, and there was even concern that the shortage could lead to a black-market pumpkin spice syrup market cropping up. There was much relief when Starbucks soon announced that the crisis had been averted.
2014: @TheRealPSL joins Twitter
In 2014, even the Pumpkin Spice Latte was getting into Twitter (now X). Starbucks was seeing the drink being mentioned thousands of times per day, and so @TheRealPSL – with its signature orange shades – arrived on the social media scene. Its following would eventually grow into the millions, and inspire its own fan society.
2015: The PSL adds real pumpkin
Yes, it’s true. The original Pumpkin Spice Latte formula was named for the pumpkin spice mix – that is, spice mix for pumpkins, consisting of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and so on. There wasn’t any real pumpkin in it, but an online backlash was sparked after comedian John Oliver raised the issue in a viral clip. The following year, the PSL rolled out with a formula upgrade: real pumpkin among all the spice. The menu is unchanged since then.
2016: Pumpkin Spice Whip arrives
The PSL has always had whipped cream on top à la pumpkin pie, but for its 13th birthday Starbucks-goers were treated to a limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Whip option, featuring the drink’s spice blend (and, of course, real pumpkin) in an appropriately orange hue. The topping was available on all beverages, making Fall 2016 the autumn of frap flavour mix-and-matching (Pumpkin whip on a vanilla bean Frappuccino, we’re told, was unparalleled.)
2019: Hello, Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew
Look: late August doesn’t always bring the cool Fall weather everyone’s craving by then. For the autumn enthusiast looking to get their fix throughout the season, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew makes a refreshing way to start Autumn early. This one was an instant hit, and remains on menus for the foreseeable future: cold brew coffee with sweet vanilla syrup and a pumpkin cream topping.
2023: Happy 20th!
Raise your Starbucks cups – the PSL is two decades old, and we’re ready to celebrate.