Pumpkin spice season is upon us and while most coffee chains are eager to sprinkle that orange flavour on everything, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
And other times you just really can’t stand pumpkin spice — especially when you realize the name itself is a lie.
That's right: despite what you might think, there is no pumpkin in the pumpkin spice mix. In fact, if you look at the ingredients on Starbucks' famous pumpkin spice latte, you'll see that the pumpkin flavour is a separate add-in. If you were to simply try their pumpkin spice topping, you wouldn't be tasting any pumpkin whatsoever.
So what's really in pumpkin spice? We'll get to that later.
In the meantime, as Tim Hortons, Starbucks and their fast-food coffee competitors are plastering pumpkin spice latte posters all over the place and flooding your Instagram timeline with orange, just remember there’s more to fall that the PSL.
Here are 7 underrated autumn flavours that’ll give you that same fall feeling in every sip.
If you're tired of pumpkin spice, why not reach for a Canadian classic?
Spring is maple syrup harvesting season but fall feels like the perfect time to actually enjoy the stuff, particularly if you're out for an autumn walk and enjoying the fall colours in a maple tree-filled park.
Speaking of seasons, autumn is apple season and there are so many different ways to enjoy this seasonal fruit, whether you're trekking out to an orchard or just tucking in with a good book at a coffee shop.
Hot apple cider is absolutely delicious and will give you the warm fuzzies inside, but it doesn't stop there. Many coffee chains have experimented with baked apple as a latte flavour. For example, Starbucks has an Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato that sounds like the perfect blend of nutty, sweet and tart.
Of course, if you're feeling peckish there are also many different apple-related snack options. You can't go wrong with apple pie, apple crisp or anything else that blends apples and that brown-butter taste.
If you're sick of pumpkins, give apples a go.
Cinnamon often plays sidekick to apple, and while there are plenty of drinks that'll include both, don't sleep on cinnamon as a solo act.
Starbucks have proven that this stuff can be great on its own with the Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and there's a reason they keep that stuff in a shaker by the coffee lids; it's good on everything!
4. Salted Caramel
Nothing capture the double-edged feeling of fall better than salted caramel. The season has its warm, sweet days and its biting, windy days, so why not grab a salted caramel drink that gives you both sensations in every sip?
Salted caramel is a bit complicated for a straight-up sunny day in July, but late September is complex and so your coffee should be, too.
Nutty flavours are a staple in the fall, whether you're scanning a coffee menu or sitting down to a big Thanksgiving feast. Roasted nuts have that earthy, slightly smoky flavour that pairs perfectly with sweater season, and hazelnuts just might be the best of the bunch.
Still, you can't go wrong with any kind of toasted brown nut in the fall, whether it's hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts. You can even get a mix with praline flavours.
Chai is delicious and appropriate any time of year, but this spicy flavour is particularly suited to fall, especially with the bite of cloves in the mix. Chai can also include cinnamon, which only boosts its autumn bona fides.
Chai (or chai tea, if you want to say the same thing twice) can be found at most coffee shops these days, although they tend to lean into the flavour a bit more around fall. That's because chai is a mix of perfect fall flavours including cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, fennel and maybe even some star anise.
In fact, you could argue that chai is the better spice blend at most coffee shops, and it's really not all that different from pumpkin spice.
Yes, we've included pumpkin on a list of pumpkin spice alternatives, but there's a good reason for that. As mentioned earlier, the pumpkin spice blend doesn't include pumpkin, so why not reach for something that actually does have that flavour?
For example, Starbucks just rolled out a new line of pumpkin cream lattes, so you can actually taste pumpkin alongside other flavours like chai or vanilla. Other chains have also experimented with pumpkin as a stand-alone flavour, so the PSL flavour you know isn't the only way to get a taste of pumpkin.
What's is pumpkin spice seasoning made of?
Many pumpkin spice products are coloured orange, but that doesn't mean they necessarily have pumpkin in them. In fact, the dirty little secret around pumpkin spice is that it does not include any pumpkins at all.
That's right: pumpkin spice is a blend that you could assemble from your own spice rack, even if you have zero access to pumpkins.
What we refer to as "pumpkin spice" is simply a blend of four or five fall spices: ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves or allspice. You could really get that fall feeling with any of them, and it's just the combo that we've come to associate with pumpkins. And if you throw in some cardamon and fennel, you've gone all the way over into chai territory.
However, many have traced the general pumpkin spice combo back to a 1796 cookbook called American Cookery, which seasoned two different pumpkin recipes with ginger and nutmeg and ginger and allspice. You can actually read through the book yourself because it's considered a major historical document, and it's so old that "s" looks like "f" in the printing.
Whether you're interested in deciphering 200-year-old cookbooks or not, the point is that pumpkin spice gets its name because it was used with pumpkins, not because it's made from pumpkins.
But what does that mean for the iconic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?
Well, rest assured: there is pumpkin in that latte. According to the ingredients list, the PSL is made with "pumpkin spice sauce," which is basically condensed milk and pumpkin puree, and "pumpkin spice topping," which is your classic cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
In other words, you can have a pumpkin latte without the pumpkin spice — although they do go well together!
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.