Battle of the brew: pumpkin spice latte

The iconic pumpkin spice latte is now available for consumers to enjoy at chain coffee shops such as Dunkin’ and Starbucks. After its debut in 2003 at Starbucks, the pumpkin spice latte has dominated the coffee industry. Perhaps the most popular seasonal drink on its menu, Starbucks has been the sole provider for over a decade – until Dunkin’ released its version in 2020. Since then, a  two-year feud has been brewing between the shop’s avid supporters. 

As somebody who regularly drinks coffee, it feels almost embarrassing to admit that I have not tried a pumpkin spice latte before. I prefer bitter-tasting coffees, so it never crossed my mind to order one in the past. However, I love to push myself out of my comfort zone and ultimately decided to settle the debate once and for all on who is the true pumpkin spice latte connoisseur: Dunkin’ or Starbucks.

The scale of rating will include the following: affordability, flavor, size and smoothness and will be compiled into a score out of 10. Both iced and hot versions, ordered in the smallest size, will be included.

Starbucks, Iced

Price- $4.25

Starting off with the classic, I was taken aback by how expensive it was for a drink as small as it was, but that’s Starbucks for you. The drink came with the choice of whipped cream or none, though I chose to include it. I took the first sip and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of flavor. 

There was no need to stir the whipped cream into the drink to make it more flavorful, sweeter or smoother to sip. The drink left me wanting more and I honestly wished I ordered a bigger size. The downfall of this drink, however, is its price. No matter how good the drink is, the price adds up astonishingly quickly. 

I’d rate this a solid eight out of 10.

Starbucks, Hot

Price- $4.25

With the same price to its iced version, the hot pumpkin spice latte was just as delicious. I wouldn’t recommend buying this until it becomes colder, though. It felt weird drinking a hot drink while 90 degrees outside, but that may be just a personal preference.

I’ve never had a knack for hot coffees, but this drink was pleasant. I would definitely order it again before it leaves the menu. Smooth sip, good flavor and decent size for a small. What’s not to love? 

I chose to keep whipped cream on mine and it definitely helped cool off the drink once I stirred it in. Once again, the price is my dealbreaker. Since I’m not too fond of hot coffee, I’d rate this a seven out of 10.

Dunkin’, Iced

Price- $2.99

Right off the bat, the price is what intrigued me. Although it is only a dollar and some change cheaper, every cent matters if this is a drink you will be purchasing regularly. 

The size was a bit bigger than Starbucks, which makes the price even better. However, I was extremely disappointed. 

From the first sip, my face naturally winced. The sweetness overload was extreme. I could practically taste the syrup they used after mixing multiple times. It was as if they were overcompensating to make it taste more pumpkin-like. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt by stirring the whipped cream into the drink. 

Only then did it become somewhat drinkable. It was smooth and creamy upon sipping, but definitely still too sweet for me. I’d rate this a whopping four out of 10.

Dunkin’, Hot

Price- $2.69

About 30 cents cheaper, the hot version of pumpkin spice latte at Dunkin’ did not impress either. 

I wasn’t too sure if it was the coffee or the pumpkin flavoring, but upon first sip, it was bitter and disgusting. I couldn’t drink more than a few sips. I tried to love it and give the drink a chance, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as Starbucks’s recipe and, overall, it just felt wrong. 

This deserves a three out of 10. 

I’ve got to admit, Starbucks has had over a decade longer than Dunkin’ has to master the recipe for the ‘perfect’ pumpkin spice latte. However, Dunkin’ clearly needs to take notes because Starbucks is easily the true winner. 

I mean, who’s surprised?