The Pumpkin Spice Latte means many things to many people. The seasonal staple connotes back to school nostalgia, visions of Uggs, and startlingly frequent usage of the word “crisp.” And despite the availability of similar drinks at a slew of coffee shops, the PSL, of course, belongs to Starbucks.
Dunkin’ appears to be preempting the coffee giant this year by announcing it will roll out its complete pumpkin menu on August 21 at shops nationwide. Starbucks will reportedly unleash the PSL on August 27 this year — earlier than ever.
The donut dealer is even launching its own Pumpkin Spice Latte, under the much-longer yet lamely similar name, Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte. Available hot or iced, the syrup is pumpkin and cinnamon-flavored and the drink is topped with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. For contrast, Starbucks’ version is pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove-flavored and topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. This isn’t the first time Dunkin’ has stolen some of Starbucks’ fall thunder. Last year, Dunkin’ launched its fall menu on August 27, a day before Starbucks brought back PSLs.
In addition to its new pumpkin drink, Dunkin’ is introducing apple cider donuts and Munchkins, made of apple cider-infused cake and coated in cinnamon sugar. The chain’s previous fall items, pumpkin flavor swirl for hot coffee, iced coffee, cold brew, espresso drinks, frozen coffee, and frozen chocolate; pumpkin donuts, Munchkins, and muffins; and pumpkin K-cup pods, will also return on the 21st.
As if all the premature pumpkin flavor wasn’t enough, Dunkin’ is hyping the rollout in the most extra way possible. On August 14 (yes, even earlier), the chain is handing out free small pumpkin coffees and pumpkin-flavored Munchkins lip balm at eight locations along the East Coast. These stores will rebrand to Pumpkin’, and to frost it all off, the first letter of each restaurant’s city spell out your favorite fall flavor: Providence, Rhode Island; Upperco, Maryland; Marietta, Georgia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kissimmee, Florida, Indian Trail, North Carolina, New York, New York, (and Boston, Massachusetts somehow stands for the apostrophe). It’s truly out of hand.
While it looks like actual fall is starting later — you can thank climate change — Starbucks and its competitors have gradually been pushing emotional fall (pumpkin spice season) earlier and earlier, encroaching on all of our last lazy days of summer. The controversial topic has given some a convenient reason to whine and moan, and others a convenient reason to scorn the whiners and moaners. Whichever group you fall into, whip out your best flannels because if this year is like the past few, the pumpkin spice arms race will pressure Starbucks to jump the saccharine gun on fall once again.