Nine people were gathered around the long, rectangular wooden table, which was festooned with flowers and autumnal decor. It could have passed for a family gathering, and in a way, it was. I was among a small group of journalists invited by Starbucks to be the first nonemployees to try its newly reformulated Pumpkin Spice Latte. This was a momentous occasion. Would PSL 2.0 be any good?
Before I was able to taste the drink, a man named Peter Dukes, Starbucks's director of category, espresso, took us on a walk down memory lane. It's been 12 years since the brand first introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Back in 2003, an era long before pumpkin flavoring invaded the food world, the company wasn't sure the concept would take off. Starbucks hadn't even set out to make a pumpkin drink; it had at one point considered making an "orange cream" creation instead. Not even the name was certain, since the brand almost went with the moniker "Fall Harvest Latte."
Starbucks went ahead and tested the "Pumpkin Spice Latte" in stores. Within a week, it knew the drink was a game-changer.
Now, as part of a larger effort to rid its drinks of artificial ingredients and flavors, Starbucks has reinvented the classic. Peter remembers asking his team, "Could we do better?" They set out to reformulate the Pumpkin Spice Latte with natural ingredients, a process that took three months and, presumably, a lot of sampling. Finally, they developed a drink that was made without artificial caramel coloring but with real pumpkin. Peter concluded his story with a smile.
The time had now come to taste the fruits of his labors.
I was handed a miniature Pumpkin Spice Latte in a taster cup. Around me, journalists suddenly quieted, regarded their own drinks, and gently took sips.
I assessed the drink before me; the top looked perfect, with a decadent swirl of whipped cream and light dusting of pumpkin spice goodness on top.
My first sip was a small one. The latte was good. The real pumpkin added a richness to the texture, which was seriously satisfying. I could taste the spices, the cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. It felt like Fall, even though it's still August. The drink was also extremely sweet, and I realized the taster cup might be my new preferred size for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It hit the spot.
But don't just take it from me. The newly reformulated Pumpkin Spice Latte will be on sale nationwide at Starbucks on Sept. 8.