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 honor of its 20th birthday, here are 20 fun facts about fall’s favorite 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 flavors from the pie that best complemented the coffee.
3. PSL was first launched in only 100 stores
PSL was introduced as a test on October 10, 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 before the official first day of fall through the holiday season, while supplies last.
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’
10. The original PSL celebrity
In 2014, Pumpkin Spice Latte joined Twitter (now called X) with a dedicated 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 pumpkins.
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 favorite fan club
Starbucks created a private Facebook group in 2018 called the "Leaf Rakers Society," for members who celebrate fall year-round. There are now more than 43,000 members.
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 of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and the beverage has become Starbucks most popular seasonal beverage of all time. PSL has inspired a variety of pumpkin spice products in the marketplace, including cereal, dish soap and scented candles.
17. Around the world
18. PSL at home
Customers can cozy up at home with PSL flavors available where groceries are sold, including Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Flavored Coffee and Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino ChilledCoffee Drink and Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Flavored Creamer.
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
This season may be the pumpkin-spiciest ever, with new pumpkin spice beverages and food at Starbucks Reserve® Roasteries and locations, including Starbucks Reserve® Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks Reserve® Pumpkin Spice Espresso Martini and Pumpkin Spice Whiskey Barrel-Aged Iced Latte.