JK Review: Manhattan Pumpkin Spice Lattes

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‘Tis the season for sweaters, warm hats and pumpkin spice lattes. There’s something about fall that brings out the pumpkin flavors in everything, but some places pull off the trend better than others. We went around Manhattan, Kansas, and bought a ridiculous amount of coffee — seven cups actually — to decide which cafe makes the best pumpkin spice lattes.

7. Starbucks (Cost: $4.62)

Julia: I was initially a little thrown off by an odd, yellow residue filming at the top of Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte, but I tried to get past it (unlike Kelsey, who was completely disgusted). After tasting the coffee for what it was, I could taste the pumpkin, but it was sort of a chemically fake pumpkin flavor. And the espresso? Not enough. These two factors, the residue and expensive dollar amount bumped Starbucks to the bottom of my pumpkin spice latte list.

Kelsey: What on Earth was that disgusting, yellow film? I had a hard time even trying this one because of that. Presentation matters in food and beverages, and this pumpkin spice latte utterly failed at that. The really sad part is the taste did nothing to redeem this drink. It tasted of chemicals in a bad way. Certainly not a new favorite drink.

6. Arrow Coffee Co. (Cost: $4.46)

J: This pumpkin spice latte could easily be a close tie for last. Like I said, I enjoy lots of espresso, and this latte had some sort of espresso issue. When you don’t mix your espresso shot with another form of liquid within 10 seconds of pulling it, it goes bad. I’m not sure if that’s what happened here, but the bitter taste wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t fully enjoy the potentially rich pumpkin flavor in this latte because of it.

K: I have never been a huge fan of Arrow, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t care for its pumpkin spice latte. It was oddly bitter and had very little pumpkin spice to it. While I definitely love the taste of coffee, pumpkin spice lattes should be more sweet. That’s the whole point.

5. Sparrow Specialty Coffee (Cost: $4.35)

J: Where’s my latte? Lattes are required to have about three-fourths milk and this latte tasted a lot more like water. The pumpkin and espresso taste were okay, but the texture tasted either like skim milk or water. Hence, if you like your lattes a little more runny, this is definitely the pumpkin spice latte for you.

K: There wasn’t much flavor at all to this pumpkin spice latte. It would have been nice to taste a little more sweetness from the pumpkin, but it tasted too milky for my preferences. Maybe trying adding more of the flavoring to each drink?

4. Dunkin’ Donuts (Cost: $2.93)

J: Attention non-coffee lovers! If you absolutely do not like the taste of coffee, but are craving a caffeinated fall drink this season, Dunkin’ Donuts is the place to go. This incredibly sweet pumpkin spice latte was a really good price and satisfied my sweet tooth. As an espresso lover, I could have gone for a bit less sugar and more espresso, but that won’t stop me from going back as it is the cheapest pumpkin spice latte of them all.

K: As someone with a humongous sweet tooth, I really liked this cup of coffee. There was no coffee taste to it whatsoever. I still like coffee, but, man, do I love sugar. Julia and I may have slightly disagreed with the placement of this one on our list, but fourth felt like a good compromise.

3. Bluestem Bistro (Cost: $5.30)

J: Yu-um. This pumpkin spice latte was everything I hoped it would be. The pumpkin and espresso complemented each other perfectly, with not too little or too much of either. The milk wasn’t too thick for my liking, but may have been a little too watery for some. Just like wine goes deliciously with chocolate, so did the pumpkin with the espresso in this pumpkin spice latte.

K: I enjoyed this pumpkin spice latte, but nothing really stood out about it. There was the pumpkin flavoring and the coffee flavor and that was about it. I felt like it was a little bland compared to some of the others, but not tragically so.

2. Radina’s Coffeehouse & Roastery (Cost: $3.21)

J: This pumpkin spice and espresso combo was flawless. Radina’s pumpkin spice latte was just as good as Bluestem’s with only a minor difference, according to my taste buds. I thought it gave way to a slightly thicker texture than Bluestem’s, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Lattes are meant to be thicker than your classic Americano, so technically, this latte fits the pumpkin spice latte definition to the tee. Great job, Radina’s!

K: Julia was right in saying Radina’s and Bluestem’s pumpkin spice lattes were very similar. I honestly couldn’t tell any really difference, so I feel it’s a fairly even tie between the two.

1. Caribou Coffee (Cost: $3.49)

J: Who wants to petition to have pumpkin spice lattes all year-round? Right off the bat this pumpkin spice latte had my vote. The combination of spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) was equivalent to tasting a pumpkin in a cup. The delicious pumpkin flavor wasn’t too sweet and gave way to the exact amount of espresso I was longing for. All the more I can say is to go try it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. I’ll be back, Caribou! Congrats on making the No. 1 pumpkin spice latte in Manhattan!

K: This pumpkin spice latte was absolute perfection. Pumpkin pie in a cup is the best way to describe it. There was a certain spice to it that was to die for, and the espresso was perfectly balanced. How many times can you use the word perfect to describe a beverage?

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George Walker
Hello! I'm George Walker, a senior at K-State studying computer science and minoring in journalism, leadership studies and queer studies. I have passions for design, development, and photography. I'm the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian and the web developer for Collegian Media Group.