Complaining About Starbucks' "Early" Pumpkin Spice Latte Debut Is a Waste of Time
To quote my favorite Byrds song and second favorite Bible verse, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."
And naturally, this ecclesiastical/'60s folk-rock wisdom applies to 21st-century caffeinated chain beverages: Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes --- as you most assuredly know -- have been an autumnal staple since 2003. A seasonal tradition. And now, pumpkin spice-time is starting a full week earlier than normal. It's officially invaded the school-free, sticky-backed month of August. And people are predictably losing their ever-loving shit (mainly because change is scary and the Internet is fueled by the piping-hot coals of complaints).
The war against premature seasonal shifting has been raging since stores started selling Christmas decorations pre-Thanksgiving, and the pumpkin spiced hate is just another offshoot of that tradition-clinging dread.
But, some people are fairly... enthusiastic... about the supposed basic beverage returning, post-haste.
Obviously, this issue is a little divisive.
So I got to thinking: What if Starbucks, in all their benevolent wisdom, just decided to make the PSL a full-time, non-seasonal, permanent part of their roster?
That way, people who become inexplicably infuriated by its creeping encroachment on summer can rest easy knowing it's always there -- and the people that flip their shit over it can also rest easy (in borderline obsessive excitement) that it's always there, and enjoy it whenever they want to.
It makes perfect sense, right?
While I was busy patting myself on the back, I ran the idea by some PSL-heads I know personally, ready to bask in their adoration of my ingenious marketing idea, one that somehow Starbucks managed to miss.
But their responses... were less than positive.
"Honestly, I'd probably be less inclined to drink a PSL if it was a year-round thing. Starbucks knows what they're doing with their seasonal marketing -- same reason why I always thought of an egg McMuffin as a rare treat if I got to a McDonalds before 10," said Thrillist contributor and admitted pumpkin spice fan Jeremy Glass. "I can't say I've ever eaten a McD's breakfast item in the afternoon and I'm sure I'd feel all sorts of wrong drinking a piping-hot pumpkin spice latte in August. I want them during the plaid months -- it's how I'm conditioned."
OK, but he must be an outlier...?
"Pumpkin spice lattes, to me, are something to splurge on during one specific time of the year," said Cole Saladino, Thrillist's senior photographer and slightly embarrassed PSL fanboy. "Part of the appeal is that it's only there for a limited time. Like, it's something special, and something I totally associate with one season."
"It's more about what the PSL represents less than the PSL itself sometimes," said Tanuja Potdar, an unapologetic PSL enthusiast, "part of the appeal is that it's seasonal."
OK, but not everyone might think that...
"I'd be less likely to drink them at any other point of the year, just because the seasonal temporariness gives them the special factor," said Alex Erdekian, the Food and Drink editorial assistant, "and having them unavailable the majority of the year makes them more coveted. It's like the Shamrock Shake phenomenon."
As it turns out, part of the unfiltered luster of pumpkin spice is the existence of pumpkin spice season. Once you remove the PSL from the cool embrace of fall, it loses its essence. It becomes less of a cultural phenomenon, and more of a... well, just a drink.
Which explains why there seems to be such unmitigated rage at the early appearance of the PSL, and a genuine love of indulging in the pumpkin-y drink when the air gets crisp and your dad starts cleaning leaves out of the gutter.
Obviously, putting PSLs on Starbucks' menu full-time won't solve the problem, or quell the waves of anger in the anti-pumps (as I've started calling them). So what Starbucks decided to do, was simply give the people who love PSLs one more week of optional autumn-accented joy.
While it did piss some people off, the brand is simply trying to give those who wish to indulge a head start on fall. It's not going to single-handedly end summer. It's not going to ruin seasonal traditions. And it's certainly not paving the road for a year-long PSL advent.
Essentially, if a pumpkin spice latte drops at a Starbucks before you're ready for summer to end, does it even matter at all?
No, it really doesn't. Because you don't have to drink one.
For fans of the drink, it represents the spirit of the season. And they'll wait until they feel that spirit to buy one.