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.
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.