Let’s face it: Writers love coffee. Not only do they love coffee, but they love coffee shops with comfortable chairs. And I don’t know about you, but I love it when coffee shops have their ‘feature of the month’ promotions… especially in the fall. I love fall drinks and foods, and I have a strange compulsion to try anything and everything pumpkin-related at the various caffeine-dispensing locales in the community. It also happens when they have almond-related promotions in the spring, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, I thought I’d do the curious writers out there a favor, and give you my impressions of the fall flavors from the major coffee chains in my area. You can thank me later.
Second Cup: The description of the Pumpkin Spice latte on the Second Cup website is: “A warm, palate-pleasing beverage with hints of ginger spice and white chocolate. A Canadian fall favorite!” Indeed? Yes, it was warm (I’d hope), yes, it had a hint of white chocolate, and yes, there was pumpkiny-ness about the beverage. But spice? Not particularly. Perhaps a minute amount of ginger, but for those looking for some actual spice in their pumpkin spice (what a foreign concept!), this should not be your drink of choice. However, it was enjoyable – and extremely sugar-laden. If you want a sugary fall drink, this is it.
If I was grading this latte, I’d give it a B+. It wins on being tasty, but loses points for not exactly living up to its namesake.
Starbucks: From the website: “A delicious blend of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors combined with our signature espresso and freshly steamed milk, and topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.” Whipped cream? Check. Pumpkin flavor? Check. Spice? Check. A ridiculously happy barista serving it to you? Check and double check. From the smooth pumpkin flavor to the spicy aftertaste, this truly is a Pumpkin Spice latte. Starbucks knows what’s going on, do you? Awesomeness in a mug, that’s what. I’d drink this all year if I could, but alas, that’s where beauty and sadness converge: the beauty of fall, and the sadness of promotion season. Sigh. For pumpkin and spice, and coffee, this is the latte of choice. Grade: A+.
Williams: Williams Coffee Pub has its own Pumpkin Spice latte and muffin, and I must say the muffin is very tasty. No regrets there… on the other hand, both times I’ve ordered the pumpkin spice latte, something has gone wrong. The first time, I didn’t realize that anything was amiss, other than the fact that the latte was slightly lacking in the ‘spice’ part of ‘pumpkin spice’, and tasted reminiscent of… all their other coffee drinks. It could have passed for their caramel latte, or cappuccino, or whatever else. It really was underwhelming and pretty bland. However, it wasn’t bad (I didn’t say I don’t like their other lattes), so I figured ‘what the hey’ and drank it.
The second time I tried it was when I visited a different Williams, and saw a sign advertising their fall feature Pumpkin Latte… and in the picture, the latte had whipped cream and spice on top. Whipped cream!!! The one I’d ordered before didn’t have any, yet here it was on their official sign!!! Miffed, I decided to try it again, wondering if it would taste better with the extra spice and whipped cream on top. Well… talk about a big mistake. The latte tasted like warm water with a bit of sugar added, which was probably just melted whipped cream. I couldn’t taste any coffee, let alone pumpkin, let alone spice. And my friend Emily, who also ordered one, mentioned that hers tasted very strongly of coffee. Unfortunately, we’d ordered them to go, so we didn’t really have the opportunity to complain… but it seems like someone forgot to add the coffee to mine and doubled hers. Maybe the barista missed her own coffee that morning…? Honestly, I threw mine out after just a few sips. It was disgusting.
Either way, with two bad experiences and the fact that my first try was mediocre at best, I’d say save your money and skip this one. Grade: F. Epic, epic fail. Have a pumpkin muffin and call it a day.
Tim Hortons: Timmy’s doesn’t have a coffee-based fall beverage, but what they do have is a wonderful, amazing, delicious, and fantastical Pumpkin Spice tea. Yes, that’s right, a tea. It has a rich, spiced flavor that lingers on your tongue, and a full bodied pumpkin pie scent that makes you want to just sit there and inhale the curling vapors. And, if that isn’t enough, the pumpkin spice donut is a very tasty addition. The pumpkin spice muffin is fairly good too, but the white goo that they pump into the center might look a little off-putting… don’t worry, it’s just a spiced icing that tastes pretty good, but I’d personally go for the donut over the muffin. But the tea? I’ve already bought one box… I may go back for 4-5 more. I’ll definitely want to be drinking this long after the fall promotion is over and done. Grade (it’s tea, mind you): A+, with another A for the donut.
*Note: according to the Tim Hortons website, U.S. stores offer customers a shot of pumpkin spice flavor for their coffee… why not here????? All our other major coffee chains have pumpkin flavors for their coffee, so what on earth would prompt Tim Hortons not to offer it in Canada??? I think a letter to the company is in order.
Starbucks wins with its actually-pumpkiny-and-spicy-Pumpkin-Spice-Latte. The others really don’t even come close, unless you enjoy drinking bland, generic lattes that maybe sorta kinda taste like what they claim to be.
Tim Hortons also has a winner in its fall tea (and pumpkin donut), which I don’t remember being available last year. If it was, I missed out. I also haven’t seen any of the other coffee chains offering a pumpkin spice tea, so this seems to be a unique item for Tim Horton’s. Kudos to them for that.
And now… I’m craving a delicious hot drink of the pumpkin-related variety. Time to raid the box of Timmy’s tea…