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The student news publication of Bryant High School in Bryant, Arkansas

Prospective Online

The student news publication of Bryant High School in Bryant, Arkansas

Prospective Online

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Photo Illustration
The Next Step
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Illustration of Bob Marley.
One Love
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Meet Ahna. Ahna is a senior this year. Outside of newspaper, Ahna spends most of her free time listening to music and spending time with her family. One of Ahna’s favorite things to do is help others....

The Pumpkin Latte Chronicles

Senior Gabi Dawson tastes pumpkin spice lattes around Central Arkansas to determine which is the best option.
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Drawn by Paley Honeysuckle

The Pumpkin Spice Latte, or as some call it, the “PSL.” 

It all started with an experiment; a wild idea that they would release this experimental drink in just 100 stores in Washington, D.C. and Vancouver, Canada where Starbucks’ classic pumpkin spice had its debut in October of 2003.

As the pumpkin season approaches rapidly, I invite you to join me on a journey through Arkansas’ community of PSLs to discover who holds the title of the superior pumpkin spice option. 

But first, let’s talk about what I personally believe makes a PSL truly remarkable. It’s not just about the flavor, though that’s undoubtedly crucial. To make sense of it all, I’ve devised a ranking system that will guide us through this pumpkin-spiced adventure, awarding points for each criteria.

In this ranking system, I’ll dissect each latte with a specific rubric on a 1-10 scale.

Taste (5 points): We’ll sip, savor, and take apart flavor, balance of spices, and the overall taste palette.

Texture & Creaminess (2 points): A velvety-smooth texture is crucial for the perfect PSL experience.

Aroma (1 point): The fragrance of the latte should be inviting and dance with the spices.

Presentation (1 point): We’re talking about eye candy here: how each coffee shop dresses up its PSL for that Instagram-worthy moment.

Price (1 point): Can the PSL’s quality justify its price tag?

But why should you trust my judgment? Well, beyond being your humble guide on this caffeinated quest, I happen to be a pumpkin spice enthusiast of the highest order. You might even call me a PSL Purveyor or a Spice Sorcerer. I’ve cherished the sweet, spicy allure of the PSL going all the way back to my days of sitting in a Target shopping cart. So, grab your scarves as we embark on a voyage through the heart of a seasonal obsession. Welcome to the Pumpkin Spice Latte Chronicles—a celebration of fall’s favorite sip, and a quest for the perfect PSL.

 

Koffee With A Kause : straight to the pumpkin 

When I initially asked about the Koffee With A Kause (KWAK) autumn specials searching for a classic Pumpkin Spice Latte, they offered their interpretation: a “Pumpkin Pie Latte.” While it may not fit the precise PSL mold, I’ve noticed some coffee shops taking this alternative route on their fall menus, and it certainly deserves its place in our seasonal spotlight. 

If you’re searching for a more realistic pumpkin spice latte without all the artificial flavors and sweetness overload, KWAK might be the place for you. KWAK’s take on this seasonal menu option may not have an abundance of flavor, but it’s an authentic experience with a base of real pumpkin that felt a lot like home to me.

Upon receiving my pumpkin pie specialty latte, I was immediately greeted by the nostalgic scent of real pumpkin pie, reminiscent of cracking open a can of pumpkin puree for holiday baking. This familiar and tasty smell gave me hope for this PSL.

KWAK takes the grand prize for presentation, delivering the cutest pumpkin spice latte I’ve encountered. I don’t know if it was intentional, but when I popped the lid off of this steamy cup, a perfect pumpkin made of foam sat on top of the latte, making my week and putting the cherry on top for this review.

While KWAK’s pumpkin spice latte might be a little underwhelming for someone who enjoys a sugar-coated latte, and though it may not be the most intensely pumpkin-flavored concoction, it’s there and it’s definitely genuine. This is the kind of pumpkin spice latte you’d imagine sipping while watching the leaves change color – cozy and comforting. 

In terms of price, KWAK gets it right. At $5.75 for a medium cup, it’s well priced for the quality and size of the drink, making it an accessible treat most.

Koffee with a Kause delivers a no-fuss, authentic pumpkin spice latte that your grandma would approve of. While it may not boast a strong aromatic profile, its simplicity and adorable presence earn it a respectable score of 6 on our 1-10 scale. If you’re in the mood for a realistic PSL without the frills, KWAK is worth a visit this fall.

 

Dunkin’ Donuts : a missed opportunity

I must preface this review by acknowledging that I used to be a devoted Dunkin’ Donuts girl. Year after year, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of their seasonal delights, including the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and those delectable pumpkin muffins. However, this year, I decided to venture into uncharted territory and try Dunkin’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. To put it bluntly, it left me wanting more.

As I approached the drive-thru, my anticipation was high, but it disappeared when the employee informed me they were out of both milk and espresso–fundamental ingredients for any latte. I reluctantly agreed to go with skim milk and a decaffeinated base, fully aware that this substitution could potentially impact my experience.

This Pumpkin Spice Latte from Dunkin’ Donuts was far from the delightful experience I’ve come to associate with their seasonal offerings. In fact, it felt like I was sipping on a basic coffee, a brew that I could have easily prepared at home with a personal espresso machine. The most disappointing aspect was the lack of pumpkin flavor — it was nearly nonexistent. Instead of the warm, comforting notes of autumn spices I expect from a traditional PSL, I tasted nothing more than a straightforward cup of joe.

Given my love for Dunkin’ Donuts and their successful track record with pumpkin-themed treats, this experience left me disheartened. I’ve often praised Dunkin’ for its affordability, and while a $3 medium latte (as a rewards member) was definitely reasonable, it couldn’t make up for the absence of pumpkin which defines the drink.

In conclusion, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Spice Latte fell short on every front, earning a low score of 2 on our 1-10 scale. While Dunkin’ remains a reliable choice, when it comes to their PSL, exploring other options might be wise this season.

 

7 Brew: a piece of pie

7 Brew’s latte made me look further than the pumpkin, it did something more magical—it evoked the spice in pumpkin spice, bringing out strong notes of cinnamon that define a true slice of pumpkin pie. Giving me a palette cleanse from the ordinary pumpkin overload I had been downing at each location before, 7 Brew offered a comforting, cinnamon-kissed taste reminiscent of their beloved Cinnamon Roll latte—a personal favorite of mine.

In terms of texture and creaminess, this spin on a PSL doesn’t disappoint. It’s a smooth ride, delivering that satisfying sip I’ve come to associate with 7 Brew’s other creations.

Aside from its delicious taste, the Pumpkin Pie Latte at 7 Brew is modest in the aroma department. It doesn’t beckon you with a potent pumpkin smell. So if a toasty and snug presentation that overflows from the cup is what you’re searching for this harvest season, this spot may not be the best location for those crisp fall vibes.

At $5.75, this latte feels justified, offering an outstanding sip for a not so significant price.

7 Brew offers a comforting experience for autumn’s cool days with their Pumpkin Pie Latte, earning an 8 on our scale of 1-10. I felt like this take on a fall favorite was a testament to the creativity that 7 Brew consistently brings with their marketing. If you’re drawn to a latte that offers more of a cinnamon taste with a touch of pumpkin, then the Pumpkin Pie Latte at 7 Brew will be a sip of pure bliss that will have you coming back to try their other items.

 

Scooter’s: Caramelicious Signature

I have often been skeptical of Scooter’s as they started popping up all over Arkansas. Something about the experience of their rushed service and the bold red letters has always intimidated me compared to the comforting neutral tones I look for in most coffee places. Though that may sound silly, after a lot of procrastination, I was forced to get myself out the door and onto a journey to try their Pumpkin Caramelicious Latte.

With each sip, the smooth espresso base sets it apart from the overly sweetened offerings commonly found in drive thrus. Espresso base in coffee is often used to avoid a watered down beverage. This tactic is something that has become more modern at other drive thru options as well, such as Dutch Bros and 7 Brew. It is something I have become quite fond of as it provides a much more enjoyable and long lasting experience, so I was impressed to find it at Scooter’s.

This particular latte dances to its own autumn tune, incorporating distinct flavor notes that separate it from the typical pumpkin spice latte. While many others lean heavily on cinnamon and pumpkin, Scooter’s opts for a delightful twist, with caramel and nutmeg taking center stage. It’s a welcomed departure that adds a layer of richness to the experience.

As you savor this oddly unique latte, you’ll find that the taste is more pronounced in caramel than in pumpkin. It’s a choice that aligns with Scooter’s branding, offering an original take on the beverage, basing it off of their signature “Caramelicious Latte”, something that you won’t be able to find at another location.

With a medium-sized cup priced at $5.70, Scooter’s is a reasonably affordable option. This is a price point that aligns with the expectations of their loyal customers, offering a good value for what you receive.

In the grand scheme of PSL’s, Scooter’s Pumpkin Caramelicious Latte falls somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t aim to dazzle with over-the-top sweetness or outlandish flavors. Instead, it delivers a balanced, dependable cup of toasty pumpkin—an average experience that is admirable in a world where consistency is often overlooked. I will end this review with a solid 5, landing this treat in the middle slot for our 1-10 scale.

 

Starbucks: the OG

When it comes to pumpkin spice lattes, there’s one that kicks off the entire obsession—the classic, the original if you will: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s the familiar brew that comes back every year, arguably earlier than it should, and it’s the reliable option after a long summer of missing autumn weather.

I swung by Starbucks on the day they first rolled out their seasonal beverage list, and let me tell you, it was pumpkin pandemonium in there. Baristas were hustling, and the counter was loaded with these iconic fall drinks. It’s a scene that repeats itself every year, a reminder of how crazy America really is for this drink.

That first sip feeling, it’s like reuniting with a friend you haven’t heard from in awhile. More like a year for most of us. The smooth, velvety and hot drink is everything it should be. It’s that taste that instantly takes you to crisp, leaf-strewn streets. This is what you think of when you hear pumpkin spice.

As the original pumpkin spice latte, it sets the standard for all others. It checks all the boxes—texture, presentation, aroma, pumpkin, spice, all of it. It’s basically the PSL starter kit.

But here’s the deal—Starbucks doesn’t need to flaunt. It doesn’t need fancy tricks because it knows what it brings to the table. When you order a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, you’re embracing tradition. Starbucks customers keep coming back because they know exactly what they’ll get, they aren’t seeking a twist or new flavors that’ll keep them entertained.

Yet, as much as we appreciate the original, we have to admit that it just isn’t the highest on this list. It’s classic, and we love it for that reason. It’s the old friend you meet every year, but there are new friends with fresh ideas. Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte is the one that started it all, and it’s a nice reminder of fall traditions. It might not have all the bells and whistles of the newcomers, but I believe that Starbucks has created the best way to kick off the season. It’s a 7 on the scale from me.

 

There is a pumpkin spice latte out there for everyone. They all bring something different to the table, but the one that really stood out to me was 7 Brew’s Pumpkin Pie Latte. This drink provided me with a new perspective on the PSL, and it left me with an empty cup and going back to get it once more within the same week just to really take in what it was offering. It scored the highest, with an 8 out of 10. 

Though I wasn’t able to find a perfect 10 in our community of local pumpkin spice, I still find myself pleased with the after taste of this journey. 

 

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Dawson
Gabrielle Dawson, Reporter
Meet Gabrielle. Gabrielle is a senior this year, and is a reporter on staff who has been participating in school newspaper for going on 5 years now. Gabrielle is currently an intern at the Benton Saline Courier newspaper, and after high school she plans to continue on with her love of writing and seek a college degree in Journalism.

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  • D

    Daniel | Oct 2, 2023 at 8:44 am

    This literally changed my life I don’t even need glasses anymore I can see perfectly my credit score it thro the roof and I had a limp but now I can walk perfectly in

    Reply
  • L

    Luci Posvar | Oct 1, 2023 at 8:42 pm

    Gabi, I love your analysis of the PSL. Great job and I’m so proud of you. Looking forward to your next article.

    Reply