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The Pandemic Is No Match for the Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks’s PSL is on menus as of today, August 25

A starbucks pumpkin spice latte Starbucks/Official
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

Update, August 25: The Pumpkin Spice Latte is officially available on Starbucks menus as of today, three days before the initially rumored August 28 date. Happy autumn, everybody.

The pandemic has forced everyone to re-evaluate what a return to “normal” will mean. When this is all over, what will we bring with us from our quarantine times, and what will we discard from our previous lives? Will we still hug with impunity? Will to-go cocktails endure? Will we keep the momentum on the fight to defund the police? We can’t know. But if you hoped in the chaos that we wouldn’t have to go through the Pumpkin Spice Latte discourse in 2020, sorry, because one Starbucks location just announced the flavor is coming back on August 28. At least we know that the adage “You shouldn’t wear white or write ‘PSL’ in curly Pinterest font before labor day” is no more.

A location in California posted a photo of a liter of “Pumpkin Spice Flavoured Sauce,” which was apparently enough to whip fans into a frenzy, longing to fill their face masks with vaguely nutmeg-y breath. Apparently no one was put off at all by an opaque, apocalypse-surviving-cockroach brown jug of “flavoured sauce” because fandom is weird!

However, Starbucks wouldn’t confirm the official date. “We know that customers are eager for the return of their beloved fall drinks from Starbucks and will keep you looped in on any details,” a Starbucks representative told Business Insider, which also published a graph showing past Pumpkin Spice Latte release dates going back to 2011. The earliest official release was on August 27, 2019.

Drumming up excitement for PSL feels like a remnant from another era. August 28 is fully summer, climate change has made “fall” feel ever less cool and cozy, and the pandemic has made the progression of months and seasons basically meaningless. But Starbucks pushes on, wrenching us back to a time when their biggest problem was Starbucks cups eradicating Christmas. A time when PSL was at first alluring, then basic, and then so ubiquitous is was pointless to hate. The rollout feels like an enticing call back. See? It’s just like it was last year!

Yucking yums helps no one. We all need to take comforts where we can, so go ahead and enjoy it if that’s your thing. But it’s also pretty pointless to crow in excitement about a corporate giant continuing to make a thing they’ve made every year for the past decade. Like, really? You think in a year of economic turmoil, where Starbucks lost half its traffic last quarter, they weren’t going to bring back the moneymaker? The Pumpkin Spice Latte’s return doesn’t mean a return to normalcy, or comfort, or that things are inching toward the way they were. It just means Starbucks wants your money and you have every right to give it to them.