Pumpkin spice with cinnamon and nutmeg in still lifeThe pumpkin spice craze got started back in 2003, courtesy of Starbucks. The company’s research and development team, working out of Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, was looking for another seasonal specialty beverage to follow up on the coffee giant’s successful holiday-period Eggnog Latte and Peppermint Mocha offerings. Somebody suggested trying to develop a coffee drink with pumpkin pie flavor.
According to the story told by Starbucks, the team sat around eating pumpkin pie and sipping espresso until they figured out how to concoct a spice mix that would blend well with coffee and steamed milk — and Pumpkin Spice Latte was born.
Starbucks test-marketed its new creation successfully, then rolled it out all over America in the fall of 2004. It was a hit, and other coffee and fast food chains — among them 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and Tim Hortons — soon followed Starbucks’ lead. A Starbucks spokesperson told Delish last year that the company had sold 350 million PSLs in the previous 14 years.
There’s nothing mysterious about pumpkin spice, of course. It’s basically the spices that go into traditional pumpkin pie. The version produced by McCormick, the world’s largest spice company, is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. The Starbucks recipe involves cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
There’s nothing wrong with PSL, as long as you don’t mind drinking a few emulsifiers and preservatives and at least 15% of your recommended daily calorie intake with your cup of spiced coffee and milk. The imitators are okay, too, if you like that sort of thing. And pumpkin pie spices seem perfectly sensible when added to things like cookies, ice cream, or doughnuts. But pumpkin spice Spam? Soda? Bath salts? Please. It’s as bad as all those bacon-flavored foods the world doesn’t need.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of pumpkin spice items, edible and otherwise, that just don’t seem to make any sense. Some involve actual pumpkin purée or juice; others involve no pumpkin, just the spices that traditionally flavor pumpkin pie — cinnamon most of all. Of course, you could always just eat a piece of pumpkin pie. These are the best pie shops in every state.
This is hardly an exhaustive list. A search for “pumpkin spice” products on Amazon returns 48 pages of results. There are even mystery novels built around it, one of which is called “Death by Pumpkin Spice.” We know the feeling.