REVIEW: McDonald’s McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte

Written by | October 7, 2013

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s McCafe? Pumpkin Spice Latte

I love Halloween, but it stresses me out. Most people get apprehensive about Thanksgiving and all the year-end religious holidays because they often involve family and gift-giving.

I get stressed out by Halloween because it ushers in that massive three-month-long wave of seasonal goodies that are only available FOR A LIMITED TIME – so already I’m rushing around frantically trying to grab them before they’re gone.

To make matters worse, October and November specialize in one particular ingredient that can be found in just about everything you can buy: Cookies, crackers, potato chips, drinks, ice cream, nuts, pastries, popcorn, waffles, yogurt, condiments, bread, hand soap, and even air freshener. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, except instead of pod people, it’s pumpkin spice! I call it THE PUMPKINING. And as a sucker for seasonal gourds, I fall for it every time. (Get it? Fall? Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Tip your servers!)

McDonald’s is no stranger to THE PUMPKINING, having already introduced a most reasonable pumpkin pie a few years ago. But it never offered the second most reasonable pumpkin venture to go along with that pastry –- a pumpkin-flavored hot drink.

So that’s why I got really excited when I saw McDonald’s had introduced its own pumpkin-flavored coffee for the season — the McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Wondering what exactly constitutes “pumpkin spice?” Nutmeg? Vanilla? Cinnamon? All of the above?

In the case of McDonalds’ new McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte, it seems to be 1) cinnamon, 2) vanilla, and 3) a metric shit-ton of sweet flavored powder. Seriously, it’s like 70 percent sugar, 20 percent milk, and 10 percent espresso. It was like getting punched in the mouth by a “pumpkin.” And yes, I used those quotation marks on purpose. This isn’t how real pumpkin tastes… and having been a connoisseur of pumpkin pie for decades, I also feel this isn’t how real pumpkin pie tastes, either.

I was unable to verify whether this latte came straight from a powder mix, but it reminded me of the flavored instant coffee I would buy from QuikTrip back in the ‘90s. And that stuff was so full of sugar it might as well have come with a free blood sugar meter and a warning label with Wilfred Brimley’s face on it.

The McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte was so sweet that you didn’t need to add sweetener. That’s probably why it doesn’t come with whipped cream. If there had been, I’d surely be writing this review with the help of an intelligent machine transcribing my subconscious thoughts from deep within my diabetic coma.

McDonald’s McCafe? Pumpkin Spice Latte Iced

I tried both the hot and iced versions, mostly by accident. During my first visit to my local McDonald’s, I was forced to order my McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte with ice because (quote) “The hot machine [was] out of order.” No biggie. Here in Southern California, it’s still 80 degrees and may quite possibly stay that way until January, so a frosty drink is A-OK.

Later, I got the hot version, and my taste buds were met by the familiar creamy sweetness and a thick, slightly grainy texture that was vaguely reminiscent of hot chocolate mix. It was all right. While, I can’t exactly say I hated my iced Pumpkin Spice Latte in comparison to the hot one, I would say it wasn’t really refreshing. The iced Pumpkin Spice Latte was creamy and cold and full of sweetness, but after a few minutes, the milk, the sugar, and the caffeine starting swirling together into a maelstrom of nausea, and I began to seriously reconsider my life choices.

Was all this barfy agita worth it? Well, the price is good, especially when compared to the $3.95 price tag of a 12-ounce Starbucks Pumpkin Latte. With the change I’d spare, I could afford to go full-throttle and load up on all the pumpkin English muffins, pumpkin yogurt, and pumpkin-scented shampoo that will hang around until Thanksgiving only to be swiftly replaced by Peppermint- and Snowman-flavored everything.

I’ll call that THE DECEMBERING.

(Nutrition Facts – Small size (12 fluid ounces) – With Whole Milk – 270 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 39 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein. With Nonfat Milk – 200 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 39 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafé Pumpkin Spice Latte
Purchased Price: $2.39
Size: Small (12 oz.)
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: THE PUMPKINING. Does not skimp on sweetness. Competitive price. Seasonal gourds.
Cons: Getting punched in the mouth. Diabeetus. Slightly grainy mixed powder texture. “Pumpkin” flavor.






9 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Kate says:

    Is it really that odd orange juice color, too?

  2. Chip says:

    I LOOOOVE me Pumpkin Lattes!!

    Lately I’ve been getting them at 7-11 and I’ve been getting that warm, cozy punched in gut feeling from those also. I never had that reaction when I lived in NM a couple of years ago, Am I getting old or have they started putting something in these things that my digestion isn’t liking? Or both?

    Either way… I LOOOOVE me Pumpkin Lattes and I’ll keep buying them as long as I can. Just not at McDonald’s.

    Damn the indigestion. Full speed ahead!

    • Flowe says:

      Had my first McD’s Pumpkin Spice Latte today. And, yes, as with most fast food, it appears to have been “supercharged.” Evidently, in creating the artificially flavored syrup, someone must have borrowed the idea of Mexican/Aztec cocoa and similar drinks. The “spice” is much more than just pumpkin pie spice – there is heat in there (as in cayenne, or something to mimic it). It did cause heartburn. Will they ever learn??

  3. Susan Christy says:

    One of the WORST things ever. My receipt said coffee + pumpkin syrup. And you know what it tasted like? Coffee. Bleh

  4. Laurence Perkins says:

    Being a former employee/Crew Trainer of McDonald’s, I can say that the process to make the latte involves no use of powders, it’s a syrup. So it’s quite strange that it had that consistency with you. One of my favorite things to add it to was a Mocha Frappe, that’s pretty amazing.

  5. Jenn says:

    did that guy just stick up for mcdonalds?

    As a former employee… I’ve never seen anyone stick up for mcdonalds. lol

    ANYWAY – Your descriptions are cracking me up tonight, glad I found your blog ;)

  6. Echo710 says:

    Disappointing… tastes like a bunch of artificial sweeteners. I hope McDonald’s brings back the pumpkin shake next year, in place of this so-called “latte”.

  7. SS says:

    Just got the pumpkin spice latte for the first time. I have to agree that like all the other McDonald’s drinks, this tastes too artificial. I don’t really taste pumpkin. Just sweetness with a bit of nutmeg kick to it. :/ Oh well.

  8. Lisa Wozniak says:

    Grossest thing I ever drank! Threw it away after a few sips!



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