What You Never Knew About The Origin Of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte

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According to Nielsen data, U.S. consumers spent nearly half a billion dollars in 2019 alone; a 4.7% sales increase from 2018 (via GO Banking Rates). That's up from just $308 million in 2013, per BloombergForbes calls it the "Pumpkin Spice Industrial Complex," and nobody is immune to its magnanimous festive scope. Pete Wentz of pop punk giant Fall Out Boy tweeted an idea for a gentleman's club that only drinks Pumpkin Spice Lattes (PSLs). Katy Perry has celebrated the countdown to the release of the drink, via HuffPost. Taylor Swift even shut down pumpkin spice critics, writing "not caring when people make fun of pumpkin flavored stuff cause you LOVE IT and are happy it's all the rage" on her Tumblr page (per Bustle).

Luckily for PSL fans, Starbucks' Fall 2022 menu was leaked last month via an Instagram post, and it looks like seasonal sippers can expect the return of the beloved bevvy on August 30. But until then, there's plenty of time to brush up on your knowledge of the iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte. Here's what you probably never knew about the drink's origin.

Guess again, PSL fan stereotypers

When you think of a PSL, a pretty cozy image might come to mind: thick sweaters, a spiced flavor palette, Starbucks' inherently artsy earth-toned interior. But believe it or not, the Pumpkin Spice Latte was originally invented by a college athlete. According to Eat This, Not That, before joining the Starbucks team in 2001, Peter Dukes was an athlete and economist at Stanford University.

Dukes formulated the drink in the Liquid Lab; a creative space on the seventh floor of Starbucks' headquarters in Seattle which is packed with industrial refrigerators, espresso machines, and a trove of ingredients for experimentation. The Pumpkin Spice Latte — which Starbucks lauds as its "most popular seasonal beverage of all time" — was born out of the company's push to add another new drink to its fall menu. Per Yahoo! Finance, "Nobody knew back then what it would grow to be," said Duke. "It's taken on a life of its own." 

The PSL's enduring legacy

As part of the creation process, the Starbucks team would eat a bite of pumpkin pie, then immediately sip espresso, to see which flavors were emphasized or translated complementarily between mouthfuls. After three months of testing and revising, Duke's final recipe (which remains unchanged to this day) features pumpkin spice sauce with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and is topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie seasoning. The drink's name, however, nearly changed: the fan-fave PSL was nearly called the "Fall Harvest Latte." ... It doesn't have the same ring as PSL does.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte was first launched in 2003 at 100 select locations in Vancouver and Washington, D.C. before expanding to stores nationwide. Today, states Starbucks, over 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes have been sipped. In fact, during the chain's fall season, an estimated more than 3,000 tweets including #PSL are posted every single day. Starbucks even runs an official, verified Pumpkin Spice Latte Instagram account (called @therealpsl, naturally), depicting a PSL cup wearing orange sunglasses and getting into various seasonal shenanigans — like jumping in puddles and carving jack-o-lanterns. But if your nearest Starbucks is a long car ride away, or if you'd rather stay in and enjoy the coziness of the season, fans can get Starbucks Pumpkin Spice ground coffee from many grocery stores to brew at home.