Pumpkin spice: overbearing or a fall essential?

October 17, 2019 — by Joann Zhang

As leaves lay sprawled across sidewalks in a crunchy, toasted golden blanket, my nose tingles and I sense the approach of a familiar, fanaticism-driven season: the season of pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spice — a traditional blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove — has long been an integral element of fall, along with fuzzy socks and apple cider. But is it really worth the hype? I tried several pumpkin-spice flavored foods and items to find out.

  1. Pumpkin Spice Latte  (cost: $4.95)

Would a pumpkin spice story be complete without the classic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte? The last time I tried this stereotypically “basic” beverage, dubbed “PSL,” was several years ago, and it seems to have improved since. 

I ordered the PSL with soy milk (lactose intolerance gang), and to my pleasant surprise, the flavor of pumpkin spice was subdued enough to be enjoyable with the coffee but definitely distinct. I could almost detect a hint of actual pumpkin, but that may have been an imagined taste. 

Most importantly, the taste of the PSL gave me the aching nostalgia for cozy blankets, horror movies and the longing for weather below 80 degrees. With this in mind, I’d say that the PSL is, as stated by many, an autumn must. Rating: 8/10

  1.  Dreyer’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Ice Cream (Cost: $5 for a 1.5 quarts)

On the other hand, the pumpkin spice latte flavored Dreyer’s ice cream, purchased from Target,  was a complete and utter disappointment. Pumpkin spice ice cream in theory should be a compromise between the remnants of summer — ice cream — and the cinnamon craving of fall — pumpkin spice. 

This particular treat, however, proved to be about as unique and exciting as vanilla bean. The flavor of coffee was virtually nonexistent, and the flavor of pumpkin spice reminded me of cheap, nauseating candles (keep reading to find out more about gross candles.) It did not evoke happy fall memories nor did it live up to the name of pumpkin spice, and I would not recommend it. Rating: 3/10

  1. Pumpkin Spice Candle (cost: $14)

As for pumpkin spice candles, they vary in quality and enjoyability. The Wax Oils Pumpkin Candle, which I originally purchased because of its cute orange wax color, was sickeningly overpowering. Just by opening its lid, the candle drenched my room with the stifling smell of very artificial pumpkin spice  I was stunned and horrified by the sheer potency of the candle, and I subsequently decided not to light it to salvage any remaining brain cells that had survived the pumpkin fumes. Rating: 0/10

Because the Wax Oils candle was so atrocious, I bought another candle — Starlume’s Hello, Pumpkin Candle. Compared to the Wax Oils monster of a candle, this candle smelled quite mild and was cheap at a college-savings-friendly $3. Bonus: the candle sat in a cute, dusty orange ceramic jar! Unfortunately, the scent was a cheap, unpleasantly sharp cocktail of unidentifiable spices and was a better decorative item than a candle. Rating: 3/10

After sampling three pumpkin spice items, I concluded that pumpkin spice serves more as a nostalgic element of fall and marketing ploy than an actual enjoyable flavor. While some items pull off the taste of pumpkin spice with finesse, most items missed the mark with this beloved yet elusive flavor.