In the 20 years since the very first Pumpkin Spice Latte was sprinkled with spice, it has become more than just a beverage. It’s become a pop culture phenomenon, social media star and the inspiration for hundreds (if not, thousands!) of pumpkin-related products. In honour of its milestone anniversary, here are 20 fun facts about fall’s favourite beverage.
1. Origin story
The Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) was invented in April 2003 in the “Liquid Lab,” a secure research and development space on the 7th floor of Starbucks headquarters in Seattle.
2. Autumn inspiration
During research and development of PSL, the team sampled a forkful of pumpkin pie, followed by a sip of hot espresso to identify the flavours from the pie that best complemented the coffee.
3. PSL was first launched in only 100 stores
PSL was introduced as a test in the fall of 2003 in about 100 stores in Vancouver, B.C. and Washington, D.C., and went on to launch across the U.S. and Canada the following autumn.
4. A memorable moniker
PSL got its nickname from the original three-letter beverage code for Pumpkin Spice Latte written by baristas on cups.
5. Wait, what? PSL Was Almost FHL?
One of the original ideas for the name was Fall Harvest Latte.
6. First for fall
PSL was the third-ever seasonal beverage introduced by Starbucks, after Eggnog Latte and Peppermint Mocha, and is often available from early fall through the holiday season.
Instagram launched in October 2010, along with the first “P-S-Lfies.”
8. A ‘pumpkin emergency’
In 2012, when there were shortages of beverage ingredients after a rush early in the season, news outlets declared a “grande problem” and a “pumpkin emergency.”
9. Still smilin’
A portrait of PSL’s creator, Peter Dukes, still smiles at passersby in Burlington, Washington as part of mural for a mockumentary ad campaign, “PSL Days,” created in celebration of PSL’s 10th anniversary in 2013.
10. The original PSL celebrity
In 2014, Pumpkin Spice Latte joined Twitter with a dedicated Twitter account called @TheRealPSL. During peak pumpkin season, more than 3,000 tweets a day would include the #PSL hashtag.
11. Made with real (and adorable) pumpkins
Since 2015, PSL’s pumpkin sauce includes real puree made from sweet little kabocha pumpkins – which grow to be only a bit bigger than a softball.
12. The great pumpkin hatch
In 2017, a few months after the live stream of April the Giraffe’s baby went viral online, Starbucks hosted a PSL Pumpkin Hatch live streaming event on YouTube.
13. Fall’s favourite fan club
Starbucks created a private Facebook group in 2018 called the "Leaf Rakers Society," for members who celebrate fall year-round.
14. Some like it
15. What’s the definition of pumpkin spice?
In 2022, Merriam-Webster officially added pumpkin spice to the dictionary, defined as “a mixture of usually cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and often allspice that is commonly used in pumpkin pie.”
16. Popularity Soars
Over two decades, Starbucks has sold hundreds of millions Pumpkin Spice Lattes. PSL has inspired a variety of pumpkin spice products in the marketplace, including cereal, dish soap and scented candles.
17. Around the world
PSL is enjoyed in many markets around the world, including Brazil, the UK and Japan. In Europe, PSL’s recipe features a dairy-free sauce, and customers in Asia Pacific can customize with a plant-based whipped cream.
18. PSL at home
Customers can cozy up at home with PSL flavours available at grocery stores, including Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Flavoured Coffee in K-Cup® pods, Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino Coffee Drink and Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Coffee Enhancer.
19. A new pick of the patch
New this year is the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte, a beverage that was inspired by a popular customer and barista customization. This creamy chai tea latte pairs a rich blend of spiced chai notes with pumpkin cream cold foam and a dusting of pumpkin spice.
20. Spicing things up with Starbucks Reserve
Fall travel plans across the border? This season may be the pumpkin-spiciest ever, with new pumpkin spice beverages and food at U.S. Starbucks Reserve roasteries and stores, including Starbucks Reserve® Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks Reserve® Pumpkin Spice Espresso Martini and Pumpkin Spice Latte Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cold Brew.