Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks SA
As a South African, I have never been able to understand the Pumpkin Spice craze that Americans go into as soon as their fall draws near. Even living a continent away, all my social media news feeds were clogged up with pumpkin-spice madness as soon as we hit September. I have heard mixed reviews, making it seem like the kind of drink people either love or hate.
Having done a previous review on Starbucks SA, I was very excited when they invited us back to try their limited edition pumpkin spice range. A little unsure of what to expect, I made my way to the Starbucks SA in Brooklyn, Pretoria. Just to be sure I could properly judge the pumpkin spice flavours, I invited along a companion who has had the privilege of tasting it in America. He, on the other hand, was less excited, falling into the category of those who really aren’t fans of the iconic drink.
What Is A Pumpkin Spice Latte?
Firstly, what is a pumpkin spice latte? Store manager Shylet Muneri broke it down for me. Into a latte go the following: two shots of espresso, a few pumps of pumpkin spice sauce (basically a syrup-type sauce, containing nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin puree), followed by hot steamy milk, and topped off with a vanilla cream. For the frappe or iced versions, crushed ice or ice blocks respectively would be added.
The Latte, Ice Latte, and the Frappe
We were presented with three versions of the well-known drink. First up, the classic pumpkin spice latte. My first taste of this distinctive flavour immediately made my South African taste buds think of a baked dessert. Think somewhere between a sticky toffee pudding, Malva and ‘pampoenkoekie’.
“This drink sells! I remember when we still had only 3 shops in the country. We had running queues outside and we used to take orders on the queue. At that stage, even before you would speak to a person, you would have already written the P [for pumpkin spice] on the cup,” tells Shylet, proving that there really is a market for it in South Africa.
The iced latte, the first of the cold options, was my favourite. Perhaps it was the hot day, but I felt like the creaminess of the milk and cream, along with those spices, made it the perfect spring sipping snack. The second, the pumpkin spice frappe, is filled with lots of crushed ice. This watered down the flavour much more than the big blocks of ice in the iced latte. I would recommend this option if you aren’t too big a fan of sweet.
Pumpkin Spice and Food Pairings
When it came to pairing, Shylet said that she wouldn’t recommend ordering it with heavy food. With that in mind, our first pairing with the drinks was the Starbucks’ smoked almonds .The earthiness of the nuts beautifully complemented the cinnamon and nutmeg flavuors in the pumpkin spice. Next up, for a breakfast version, we tried their Egg Box. This paired best with the hot latte. The sunflower seeds and cheese in the box really made this work for me.
I am a self-proclaimed lover of all desserts and have a major sweet tooth but even for me it all became a bit much and very filling. To be fair, I had 3 servings, but I agree with Shylet that not ordering anything too sweet or heavy with the pumpkin-spiced beverages is a good idea. That being said, my favourite pairing was the last one: The Butter Croissant. The saltiness of the pastry really lifted the sweet notes and the pumpkin flavour, and stopped it from becoming sickly sweet.
The Final Verdict
And, finally, what was the verdict from the American pumpkin spice hater? He was actually pleasantly surprised. Despite the sweetness, he felt that the SA versions were certainly less sweet than the American versions. He also much preferred the chilled versions over the classic latte.
The pumpkin-spiced drinks can be found in Starbucks SA stores until the 25th of October. After that, it will be replaced with Wicked Pumpkin Spice (a green version) in honour of Halloween. This will run till the 31st of October. So, if you are one of those pumpkin spice nuts who have tasted it before and just can’t get enough, or perhaps a curious South African like me, get it before time runs out or you will have to wait another year for its return!
See below for more info on Starbucks SA and where to find your nearest branch.
Article Date: September 2018
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