In the throes of the last week of September, New York has begun to feel exponentially more #autumnal. The trees in the park are beginning to turn, students are beginning to pull sweaters off the shelves, and the kids from California are already tweaking. But the biggest tip-off that fall is truly upon us? From some black lagoon in a Haliburton death camp off the coast of Palau, for its tenth year running, the Pumpkin Spice Latte™ rears its sicko orange head.
All week there has been a sharp uptick in the density of Facebook statuses (posted by those girls from last year’s econ study group whom you still follow on the Internet out of a perverse sense of superiority but the physical sight of whom makes you furiously fake-text) regarding the consumption of, enthusiasm for, or belated discovery of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte™:
“Boyfriend brought me pumpkin spice!!!”
“You know me – #PSL [artfully blurred Instagram of a white cup on Formica counter with Hudson filter]”
“Pumpkin Spice and a Cornflake Caramel Marshmallow Yellow #7 Handless Caribbean Child muffin… the perfect morning. <3”
All of these statements make us want to die because the Pumpkin Spice Latte™ is the most garbage of the millions of garbage-y options you have to choose from each morning, class break, and maybe pre-dinner pick-me-up (you sad fuck.) Starbucks describes its PSL™ as “Signature espresso blended with the unmistakable spices of fall – cinnamon, nutmeg and clove – smooth with steamed milk, topped with delectably sweetened whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.” After calling customer service, I translated this to: Sugar, condensed nonfat milk, sweet condensed nonfat milk, annatto (a colorant), natural and artificial flavors (which our friendly customer service representative, let’s call her Dina, could not give me,) and caramel coloring. Plus, of course, your milk of choice, whipped cream, and one espresso shot (150mg caffeine.)
All together, according to their website, a Grande PSL™ with 2% milk and no whip (slow down, health nut!) will supply you with as much sugar as 22 Pixie Sticks, as much saturated fat as four strips of bacon (double that with whipped cream,) and more calories than 8 nuggets from Chik-Fil-A, with BBQ sauce. That sugar, by the way, is so refined and so quickly metabolized that your body will rapidly get super agitated, then super sleepy, then super hungry. There is zeeero fiber in that bitch. The one measly shot of espresso in your PSL™ will not save you from this rollercoaster of inner turmoil. “But PSL™s are sooo goooood,” you say, “don’t treat-shame me, I go to the gym, what do you do? Eat Newman-Os in bed writing polemics against the industrial food complex?” Well, yeah. But also:
Starbucks gets its milk from a dairy distributor called Bartlett Dairy, which in 2011 broke its contract with (100+ year old, family owned, last surviving, low-income-services-providing) New York City dairy processor Elmhurst Dairy, leaving up to 700 unionized workers jobless, in order to move production to Dean Foods, a non-union mega-conglomerate and the country’s biggest dairy supplier.
Annatto, the “natural colorant” which adds a reddish tint to the PSL™’s otherworldly glow, is an oil- and water-soluble extract derived from the annatto plant. It shows up in everything from carpets to lipsticks to Cheetos. It is mainly produced in South America, where the extract is concentrated from the dried annatto seed using solvents such as a mixture of ethanol and chloroform, acetone, straight ethanol, ethyl acetate, and alcoholic sodium hydroxide. Nothing says “relax into fall” like a teensy weensy bit of chloroform!
“Natural and artificial flavors” sounds pretty murder-mysterious, but Dina could not tell me anything more about them. Even if these unnamable compounds won’t hurt you, aren’t you a little cowed by the fear of the unknown?
If none of this is convincing, think of the price! That Grande PSL™ will run you about $4.50. And, in a way, it will cost you even more when you inevitably get hungry and cranky again really soon after you drink it and you have to purchase more coffee and food (or… more pumpkin spice?!!!!)
As a final plea to get you to make a step towards health in conquering your physical addition to PSL™s, we’d like to introduce you to the alternatives. If nothing else because the PSL™ simply tastes bad. It imparts nothing of an actual pumpkin’s light-yet-buttery roasted goodness; the hydrogenated oil sticks to the teeth in this creepy way that produces a nauseating cottonmouth. You can do better. Here are some less terrifying, more aut-yumm-nal (hah) beverages that are way, way better for your wallet, your body, and your mixed-up tastebuds, dummy!
Oren’s Roast Cinnamon Coffee – know what’s in this? Cinnamon and coffee. Their website notes that they blend single-origin Colombia coffee and honest-to-goodness cinnamon. It’ll taste cozy and fall-ish.
Birdbath Hot Chocolate – with homemade marshmallows! Birdbath makes cold-weather classic with locally-sourced ingredients. They assert that they use exclusively organic ingredients grown locally; I mean, the walls are literally “made of wheat” (?!) and their deliveries are made by rickshaw. The snacks here are also way better here than at ‘Bux, with plenty of vegan/gluten-free/etc options.
Dirty Chai, anywhere chai and espresso are served – a fun kinda-secret of coffee shops is that if they have both chai tea and an espresso machine, you can order a dirty chai. That is, a chai latte with shots of espresso in it. All of the flavor/”coloring” comes from black tea and an enumerable spice blend. It packs more caffeine than the typical latte (and much more than the PSL™,) while remaining a palatable (nay, delicious!) vehicle for the coffee-squeamish. It’s officially on the menu at The Bean, but The Bean is actually a soundstage for a Friends spinoff.
So buy one of those. Or buy a cup of coffee like a fucking adult. Just please don’t buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte™™™. But if you do, tweet about it, because we think it’s very funny.
By the way – if you decide to skip the PSL™ and go with a skinny two-pump vanilla frap instead, you are probably ingesting a beaver anus. Happy fall everyone!! See you @ The Square!