As a former Starbucks barista, I’m all too familiar with the pumpkin spice craze. I’ve taken hundreds of orders for the seasonal drink and made thousands more — but I’ve never actually tried one. Almost all of my friends are constantly drinking the infamous latte and they’re always gushing about how amazing it is, so I figured I might as well see what all the fuss was about. For the past five days, I set out to try a pumpkin spice latte from every coffee shop on campus. Here’s how my week went.
Monday: EspressOasis (Newman Library)
I was more than a little disappointed. This was the first pumpkin spice latte I had ever tried, and I had high expectations. There was a weird texture to the whipped cream, and the strong scent of pumpkin spice was nowhere to be found. I found myself struggling to taste any kind of pumpkin flavor when I took the first sip. It tasted like a regular latte, and a rather weak one at that.
Just to be sure, I even asked the barista if my order had been mixed up, but she assured me that I was drinking a pumpkin spice latte. I’m not convinced that I was drinking anything other than a bad latte. If that review didn’t already put you off from ordering a pumpkin spice latte from EspressOasis, it doesn’t even take dining dollars, so I paid almost $6 for a medium coffee.
Tuesday: Deet’s Coffee
Sweet mother of god. I’m quite biased because I absolutely love anything from Deet’s; I’m a sucker for its chai lattes and I’ll do just about anything for one of them. Its pumpkin spice lattes are just as good. Right off the bat, I could smell that beautiful, warm, pumpkin-pie-on-Thanksgiving scent I had been anticipating. The whipped cream was smooth, and the pumpkin spice flavor was just enough to balance out the bitter taste of espresso. I would definitely recommend this as a morning pick-me-up on any chilly fall day.
Wednesday: Dolci e Caffe (Turner Place)
Rating: 6/5 (Yes, you read that correctly)
This was well worth waking up early and making a trip to Turner Place over an hour before my morning class began. If you have the patience to wait (half an hour from the time I ordered to the time I took the first sip), this latte is well worth your time. It’s smooth, the latte has the perfect amount of sweet and the spices are subtle but noticeable. I could hardly taste the espresso, the pumpkin spice flavors covering the bitterness completely without being overpowering. I’ll definitely be ordering a few more pumpkin spice lattes here more often.
Thursday: Dunkin’ Donuts
I go to Dunkin’ almost every day, since Hokie Grill is right by my dorm, but this was my first time getting any kind of espresso beverage there. While I didn’t expect Dunkin’ to have a latte as good as the one from Dolci e Caffe, I definitely expected it to be better than it actually was. The warm scent of pumpkin was present, but the first sip had me wondering if the only thing pumpkin-y about this drink was the smell. The taste of pumpkin and spices was barely present and the latte left a strange aftertaste in my mouth. I’ll be sticking to my regular Dunkin’ usual from now on.
We don’t have an actual Starbucks on campus, so I cheated a little and made the short walk to the franchise past Turner Place. After all, I couldn’t have a ranking of pumpkin spice lattes without the original brand that started this craze. I wasn’t disappointed, and after just one sip, it was easy to see why thousands obsess over this drink (and pay way too much for it). The aroma of spices was absolutely intoxicating, the whipped cream was smooth with just the slightest hint of vanilla, and the latte itself was the perfect blend of bitter, sweet and spicy. I found myself finishing the grande I had ordered in about five minutes, and actually went back to order another one for the road. If it wasn’t for the steep price, I’d probably become just as obsessed with these as all of my friends are.
I was surprised at how fast I was sucked into the pumpkin spice phenomenon. Luckily, several Virginia Tech dining locations have Hokies covered this autumn. In fact, I’ve got a pumpkin spice latte from Dolci e Caffe sitting next to my laptop right now. It looks like this fall favorite is worth the hype.