The #pumpkinspice craze goes local

Eleanor Dearman

Sugar, spice and everything nice — that’s what pumpkin spice lattes are made of. Since Starbucks revealed the now-popular fall flavor in 2003, the chain has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice drinks. This year, the drink turned 10 years old, causing a new wave of pumpkin spice obsession to surface. There are countless pictures on Instagram under the hashtag “pumpkinspice” of people holding Starbucks’ signature red holiday cup, as well as other pumpkin spice items. Some show off their Coffeemate pumpkin spice creamer, and others flaunt their freshly made pumpkin spice cupcakes and bread. According to Starbucks’ website, there have been more than 29,000 tweets that have featured the hashtag “pumpkinspice” since August 2012.

“I know that on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, it’s hyped up by Starbucks first off, but also it’s hyped up by a lot of people just ordering them,” theatre and dance freshman Sandro Cervantes said.

After noticing the public’s love for Starbucks’ winter drinks such as the peppermint mocha, the coffee powerhouse decided to capitalize on the fall season as well. It created a drink embodying all of the sweet flavors of autumn, put them in a cup with some steamed milk and called it the pumpkin spice latte. The infatuation with pumpkin spice has spread to other big coffee brands, as well as local shops. 

One of the big companies jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon is The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

“Everyone loves the flavor of pumpkin and our flavor here at The Coffee Bean is amazing,” said Sylvia Gomez, shift supervisor at The Coffee Bean on Guadalupe. “It’s like pumpkin pie in a cup.”

Coffee Bean uses its own brand of syrup to make its pumpkin spice lattes. Starbucks uses Fontana Pumpkin Sauce — a syrup anyone can purchase on the store’s website or other sites online — which contains no pumpkin. The drink is popular at Coffee Bean and many other large chains, but because of the extra expenses involved in making the latte, it may not be practical for smaller shops.

“Products cost a lot, so you have to buy them in bulk,” Gomez said. “So with a smaller company it may not be worth their while. And, usually, smaller coffee shops have a stable set of guests who just like their cappuccinos or their regular coffees and they don’t really stray from the menu very much.”

Thunderbird Coffee is an example of a local shop that opted not to offer the fall treat. While it has some basic syrups such as hazelnut, Thunderbird chooses to focus on the actual flavor of the coffee.

“We used to have a bunch of syrups — pumpkin spice being one of them — but they didn’t sell very often,” Thunderbird Coffee owner Ryan McElroy said. “They’d just sit there, and that’s kind of gross just in and of itself. For months, even years to be honest, there would be syrup sitting there that never got used.”

This idea of smaller shops not offering the flavor does not always hold true. Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery, a local coffee shop and bakery, sells pumpkin spice lattes seasonally. Quack’s offers the flavor beginning around mid-October along with other pumpkin baked goods. 

“I think that when fall rolls around a lot of people look to big companies like Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Caribou Coffee, and start going after that trend,” Quack’s General Manager Heather O’Connor said. “I think it’s up to us little guys to provide that for customers to keep them interested in local coffee shops versus big chain stores.”

Whether a fan or a critic, it’s easy to see that pumpkin spice is taking over the coffee world. It seems this hyped-up seasonal treat will be returning for many falls to come.