Pumpkin spice seems to be getting a bad rap lately. Perhaps that’s because the marketing around the fall favourite has completely kicked into overdrive, and the knockoffs (pumpkin spice Oreos? Fishing lures? Guns?!) just seem to keep coming. But when it comes to the actual PSL, we still have a soft spot. There’s something so warm and comforting about the deliciously seasoned drink that we can’t help but look forward to it each fall and we don’t care who knows.
That’s why we decided, with the growing popularity of the drink that started it all, to see which one reigns supreme in an ultimate taste test. We sampled five varieties of pumpkin spiced lattes to see which one would emerge as the big winner. Here are the results:
Starbucks – PSL
Calories: 300 (tall)
Pumpkin-to-Coffee-to-Milk Ratio: The pumpkin is definitely rich and creamy with a strong coffee kick. Perhaps slightly too strong upon a second and third sip, but that’s balanced out by the milk and whipped cream.
Sweetness: Overload. This is definitely a dessert drink.
Finish: The final few sips were grainy and sugary, not what we’d hoped.
Extras: If you’re looking for a treat, the whipped cream puts this drink over the edge.
Results: 4 mugs out of 5
Starbucks – PSL Non-Fat, No Whip
Calories: 200 (tall)
Pumpkin-to-Coffee-to-Milk Ratio: The non-fat milk throws this whole concoction out of whack. The strong espresso shot overwhelms the milk and makes the pumpkin slightly less prevalent.
Sweetness: Too much. Next time we order the skinnier version of this drink, it’ll be with fewer shots of pumpkin flavouring.
Finish: The final dregs were definitely way too sweet for our tastebuds.
Extras: Perhaps some extra cinnamon sprinkled on top would calm this drink down.
Results: 3 mugs out of 5
Second Cup – PSL
Calories: 285 (small)
Pumpkin-to-Coffee-to-Milk Ratio: Good — the pumpkin tastes real, the coffee is smooth and the milk is perfectly heated.
Sweetness: A good balance — somehow this drink avoids the “artificial” pumpkin aftertaste some lattes boast in spades.
Finish: Smooth until the last sip.
Extras: Whipped Cream, anyone? Thick and delicious, it puts this drink over the top.
Results: 4.5 mugs out of 5
Second Cup – Skinny PSL
Calories: 200 (small)
Pumpkin-to-Coffee-to-Milk Ratio: Wonderful. Even though this is a low cal and low sugar version of the original, we don’t feel like we’re missing out. By adjusting the pumps of flavour and the milk accordingly, the integrity of the original drink hasn’t been compromised at all.
Sweetness: Perfectly proportionate. We still feel like we’re having a treat, but the pumpkin flavour is creamy and full of fall flavour.
Finish: So smooth we seriously thought about having a second cup.
Extras: The option to add more, calorie-free pumpkin pie spice at the counter made us positively giddy.
Results: Our heather option loving selves gave it 5 mugs out of 5
McDonald’s – PSL
Calories: 200 (small)
Temperature: Piping hot — almost too hot
Pumpkin-to-Coffee-to-Milk Ratio: Whoever made this drink (we believe it was a machine) failed to stir the cup properly. As a result we were drinking pumpkin, then coffee, then sugar — in that order.
Sweetness: At first it wasn’t sweet enough, but by the end, it was too, too sweet.
Finish: If you’re looking to spoon sugar directly into your mouth, just dump out the first half of the cup and you’re good to go.
Extras: No whip cream was offered, and we learned that this is the one PSL of the bunch that isn’t offered in decaf form. Which means those looking for an evening treat may be wired all night long.
Results: 2 mugs out of 5
So who’s the overall winner?
Second Cup’s Skinny PSL… FTW.
If you’re looking for a full, fall flavour with less calories and sugar, this one is the clear winner. The original from this Canadian chain is the obvious runner-up, especially thanks to thick, delicious whipped cream on top. The pumpkin flavour in both cups were unmatched, and was basically like drinking a slice of warm pumpkin pie. Add in the option to jazz up the seasoning to our own preference and this is the cup we’ll be coming back to for the rest of the current fall season.
Now what are you waiting for? Go drink up!