Everyone knows the Pumpkin Spice Latte – but how did it become the unofficial scent of autumn? 

It’s that time of the year. The days are getting shorter; school has restarted; freezing temperatures and attempts to enjoy the outdoors while we still can. Which also means that around every corner and in every shop is something flavoured or scented with pumpkin spice; 

Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice popcorn, even pumpkin spice cat litter. 

It’s hard to imagine the arrival of autumn without the cozy comfort of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Since its first debut in Starbucks stores on October 10, 2003, the beloved beverage has sparked a love for all things autumn. In the last two decades, the ‘PSL’ has been relived and celebrated, pulled into cliches about politics, and blamed for obesity. However, although you may think the pumpkin spice craze began with Starbucks, it has in fact been associated with autumn for centuries. 

The average pumpkin spice blend consists of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Early American settlers did not use the blend like we do today, but the same ingredients were used to preserve autumn harvests of meat, fruit, and vegetables. That was until 1796, when Amelia Simmons created a recipe for ‘pompkin’ pie, using the spices, in the first American Cookbook. The spices that make up this blend have, of course, been around and similarly combined for ages. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves are native to Asia while allspice is native to the New Indies, Mexico, and Central America. All were introduced to North America centuries ago via colonialism and trade. 

Since then, pumpkin spice has firmly been established as an economic juggernaut: sales of pumpkin spice products (not including restaurants and coffee shops) totalled more than £650 billion in the year ending July 2023, according to NielsenIQ data. Adding to this impressive number, Starbucks reportedly sells more than 31.5 million pumpkin spice lattes every year in the UK alone.  

So, there you have it. The origin of pumpkin spice; the unoriginal scent of autumn. Having recently celebrated its 20th birthday, I think its safe to say that Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Late has become an iconic beverage marking the start of autumn.