Pumpkin spice latte has successfully colonized Europe, although it was mainly a USA drink. How the world get crazy about drinking coffee that tastes like pumpkin, and how do coffee houses exploit that?
What is Pumpkin Spice Latte – A brief history of Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin spice latte is a milky drink that tastes like a pumpkin pie. That’s the basic definition. But how do you get your cafe latte to taste like pumpkin? Well, you use pumpkin pie spice. It is a mixture of traditional autumn spices:
Now, most cafes use pumpkin spice syrup, as it is much easier to manage. These spices end up as a sprinkle on the top.
Would you believe that Pumpkin Spice Latte is just 18 years old? In 2003, Starbucks continued its experiments with seasonal drinks. They were encouraged with previous successful experiments – Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte. And given the US love for pumpkin pies, they found the perfect drink.
How did it become so popular?
We can say a thing or two about the taste of Starbucks coffee. Especially in the 90s. But their marketing team was and is almost flawless. How so?
- They spotted the pumpkin taste niche.
- They used the hell out of that niche.
- And they offer the latte only for a limited time.
The official #PSL season starts at the end of August and lasts till around Christmas.
That’s the beauty of it. You can’t order your autumn drink in the middle of summer or after the New Year. No, exclusively in autumn. And when something is limited, you bet people will want to drink it even more, especially with a cool hashtag such as #PSL.
So, how do cafes in Estonia make Pumpkin Spice Latte?
Most of the bars use Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup. Hence, it took me weeks to find one lousy bottle. The last time I visited Gemoss in person, they told me someone bought the last 115 bottles (!), and they don’t have the slightest idea when they will get the next shipment. Tea & Coffee Centre also ran out of the damn syrup. Smaller shops – also no luck.
Yep, and all the cafes suddenly started advertising Pumpkin Spice Latte. Why the sudden popularity in cafes? Well, it gives cafe owners a chance for an even more massive profit margin.
To put it simply: One bottle of 0,7 l Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup costs around 8.50 €. For one Pumpkin Spice Latte, you need 0,01 splash of syrup. You can make 70 cups of Pumpkin Spice Latte from one bottle of Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup. The cost of spices you sprinkle on the top is next to zero.
Let’s be generous and say that every barista uses 0,03 splash of Monin for the #PSL. That means you can pull out 23 doses from one bottle, which raises the costs to fascinating 0.37€ per dose. Still a bargain. Pumpkin Spice Latte usually costs 2 euros more than the regular one. You can see why the cafes quickly adopted this non-European tradition. Unlike the tradition of serving a glass of water with your espresso. They still need to learn that one.
Do all Estonian cafes make Pumpkin Spice Latte with Monin?
No, not all, but a decent number of them does. Some add whipped cream, some sprinkle the foam with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, but the basis is the same. Pumpkin Spice Latte is just like a regular latte, with the addition of syrup.
Some cafes claim they use pumpkin puree instead of syrup, but those are rare.
I prefer to make my #PSL at home. It gives me a chance to play with ratios, add an enormous quantity of whipped cream and sprinkle spices all over the kitchen. I feel like an autumn fairy.
How to make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home?
You will need:
- 50 ml of strong coffee
- Warm milk
- Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup
- Cinnamon stick – decoration
- Pumpkin pie spice mixture or just cinnamon powder – decoration
- Whipped cream
- Tall glass – looks fancy
Espresso is undoubtedly the best base for a latte, but not everyone has a home espresso machine. I have a decent one, bought in Rimi sale. You will be fine with a stronger cup of coffee from a percolator or an AeroPress.
Pour the warm 50 ml of coffee into a tall glass. Add 1 ml of Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup and stir well. If you are a sucker for that pumpkin taste, feel free to add more.
Add steamed milk. Sprinkle some spice on top of the foam. Or even better, finish with whipped cream. Eventually, you can top a small cinnamon stick inside.
There you have it, your milky delight that tastes just like autumn. And it doesn’t cost 5 € like in most Estonian cafes. Or 7 €, like in some cafes in Helsinki.
If you want a vegan version, remember that all coffee beans are vegan. You can substitute whipped cream with a plant version of it. Instead of usual cow milk, use oat, or even better, almond milk. I found out that almond milk goes great with the pumpkin spice taste.
Although I am not a fan of Starbucks (or American coffee culture for that matter), I must admit that #PSL is a pretty neat drink. Perfect for these cold and rainy Estonian days. Especially when you make it yourself.