Pumpkin Spice Lattes

“Coffee is a language in itself.” ~ Jackie Chan

I stand in line behind throngs of people impatiently waiting to order their jolt of much needed caffeine before headed to work. The pliantness of summer is behind us and the frenzy of fall has begun. Even Starbucks is ready with Pumpkin Spice signs every where.

I could blame my sister for my affair with Pumpkin Spice. She use to get them all the time. First from Starbucks, and then from that bastardization of a New England franchise that tries to say American runs on their coffee. It doesn’t. It is to disgusting to this connoisseur of a coffee snob.

Thus for the last couple years of her life, she and I would go back and forth over which coffee was better, and the merits of a coffee infused with pumpkin which just seemed to assault the senses. Vanilla. Chocolate. Caramel. ThOSE all belonged in coffee. But gingerbread and pumpkin? Most CERTAINLY not.


Our rivalry was friendly in the way that sisters are always ragging on each other. Whenever we would go out, we would always make two stops. One to Dunkin the other to Starbucks. In between our stops, we would try to convert each other. Despite all of that, we never failed to buy each other coffee. I would be sick, she would bring me Starbucks. She let me use her car, I would buy her Dunkins.

We never converted each other. The day that she was killed I had bought her coffee, a pumpkin spice latte from Dunkin Donuts. It was still sitting on the table when we came back from the hospital. Glistening from sweat. My mom threw it out, but I couldn’t get the orange and yellow colors blended with the creamy coffee out of my mind. It was a better vision then of her laying like a broken porcelain doll on the gurney.

A few days later, with my sister and cousin, I was at Starbucks with the Pumpkin Spice sign in big bold letters flashing before my eyes like a bright neon sign you would find on the Vegas strip. “Pick me.” It seemed to say. I sighed, and said why the hell not. It wasn’t like I was really tasting anything.

Thus began an albeit short affair with pumpkin spice. It wasn’t that bad, I thought to myself, as I took a sip. A little sweeter then my usual preferences. And thicker. But not bad as I downed the whole thing.

A few weeks later I diverted once again from my usual caramel machiatto and ordered another one.

The next year when it came out in August early much to the outcries and exclamations of many, I once again ordered it.

I admit my taste buds did grow to love it, and I know my sister was sitting on some cloud looking down smirking her ass off. Of course, I would think to her, it still isn’t Dunkins so there. I would mentally stick my tongue out at her, because even adulthood and death does not ruin the commadery of sisterhood.

Then Starbucks did something unfounded. They changed their pumpkin spice recipe last year, making it healthier! I tried one, and said oh hell to the no. I also couldn’t help but think. I had been right. It tasted like crap. Okay fine it was healthier. But aside from pumpkin pie, I wasn’t a huge fan of pumpkin unless it was mixed and smashed and hidden in food that even my smarty pants nephews could not discern fit was there and would eat it.

The affair ended. As most affairs do. I can’t even say I was sad. Maybe a little disappointed. But like with anything, life goes on. Grief progresses. Laughter occurs. The ticks that we create to cope, disappear.

It is that season again, I might try one, as most Americans do this season. In fact according to CNBC:

Just 8 percent of pumpkin spice latte customers buy the drink three or more times during the offer time, according to NPD data. It’s considerably more common for PSL lovers to buy the indulgence drink just one time. About 72 percent of customers do this, while about a fifth buy it twice a season.

I’ll be en vogue with the once and done mentality. But the taste bud of memories it invokes are different now. The satisfaction of something distant, of the what might have beens, no longer hit my tongue. Time passes and like the leaves we change. We evolve. We learn. We weather.

I look at the Starbucks board and I debate internally to myself. Do I. Or do I not? I shake my head, go up to my favorite barista and order a flat white. I let a small smile slip. Oh yes, Sugar, I WAS right. I take a sip. Yup Starbucks is most definitely better. I laugh knowing people probably think I am manical. But hey they aren’t in on the joke that has lasted six years. Because that is what sisterhood is. Nothing destroys that.

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