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Who Has The Best Pumpkin Spice Latte?

By Lexie Zanghi | September 4, 2023

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Whether you like it or not, fall is quickly approaching, which means fall drinks are back at your favorite coffee shops. But who really has the best pumpkin spice latte?

As an avid pumpkin spice addict, I set out to find the very best pumpkin spice latte. Over the course of the week, I visited five different coffee shops: Dunkin, Starbucks, Argo Tea, Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary, and Uncommon Grounds. I kept my order the same at each place, a medium iced pumpkin spice latte. No substitutions, nothing extra. A plain and simple PSL.

Dunkin - 186 Wolf Rd, Colonie, NY 12205

A photo of my Dunkin PSL.

Photo Credit: Lexie Zanghi / the Albany Student Press

My first stop on this pumpkin spice journey was to Dunkin on Wolf Road. As I mentioned, I placed my order of a “medium iced pumpkin spice latte” in the drive-thru. The cost of the drink was $5.19 before tax.

Overall, the drink is good. I finished the whole thing, but for my taste it is a bit too sweet. They put 3 pumps of pumpkin swirl, 3 shots of vanilla, and milk in the drink. On top of the already sweet drink is whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and cinnamon sugar. I do like the addition of the whipped cream and toppings. This is a “big” medium, so if you don’t want too much drink, get a small one instead.

While the drink is aesthetically pleasing, it made my stomach hurt after a while. There is a lot of milk, and I feel like that was a majority of what I was tasting while sipping. The flavors were kind of there, but a lot more faint than I was expecting.

I am not 100% sure I would get this again, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever had. I’ve gotten this drink in previous years, and I feel like the flavors are less prevalent this year.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Argo Tea - Lecture Center, University at Albany

A photo of my Argo Tea PSL.

Photo Credit: Lexie Zanghi / the Albany Student Press

Next up, I went to Argo Tea in the lecture center on campus. I saw on their menu they had a chai tea pumpkin latte, but when I placed the order, I simply asked for a medium iced pumpkin spice latte. Using discount dollars, the drink’s price dropped to $2.94. The drink came as an iced chai pumpkin spice latte, I should have specified I didn’t want any chai, customer error on my end.

But alas, I got what I got, and I did not enjoy it. I do like the pumpkin chai tea latte at Starbucks, but chai definitely is not my favorite. I feel like this was way too much chai, and I tasted no pumpkin whatsoever. It also was way too much milk for me. Of course, since it was a chai tea latte, there was no espresso in it like a traditional latte should have. I took about three sips of this before I offered it to my roommate who loves chai, and even she said it was gross.

Sorry, Argo, but this was a no for me.

Overall Rating: 1.5/10

Starbucks - Campus Center, University at Albany

A photo of my Starbucks PSL.

Photo Credit: Lexie Zanghi / the Albany Student Press

I love Starbucks. My go-to fall drink is the pumpkin cream cold brew, but their PSLs are good too. I normally don’t like going to the campus center Starbucks, and for good reason… I waited 40 minutes for this drink. I went after the 11:30 class session ended on Wednesday, peak coffee getting time I guess. Luckily, with my discount dollars, this drink cost $4.03, if I went to an actual Starbucks, the same drink would have cost $6.43.

My complaints about the wait aside, I thought the drink was pretty good. I like that the color resembles a pumpkin, more so than a milky tone like Argo’s and Dunkin’s. For the taste, I thought all the flavors came through well, but not too overpowering. I could definitely taste pumpkin in it. I do think that this drink would be a bit better had I gotten it from an actual Starbucks store, because sometimes the campus center uses different ingredients.

After a while, the drink started to taste a bit worse, so if you are a slow drinker, beware. If you have the means to buy this drink from an actual Starbucks, I would go there.

Shockingly, I also much prefer the hot Starbucks PSL to the iced one. I feel like the flavors and the milk just work better with the warmth of it.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary - 145 Wolf Rd, Albany, NY 12205

A photo of my Professor Java’s PSL.

Photo Credit: Lexie Zanghi / the Albany Student Press

I have been to Professor Java’s a couple of times. Every time I have gone I’ve liked their numerous drink options. They also have lots of different options for blends and roast, so you are bound to find something that you like there.

As for the drink itself, I thought it tasted very good. I feel like this drink was the first one where I could really taste the espresso. The pumpkin flavoring was the perfect amount, I thought all of the different ingredients and tastes went great together. For the $4.50 the drink cost, I thought I got what I paid for, for sure.

My only complaints are that I wish it came with whipped cream, I wasn’t asked if I wanted any, but I am sure if I had requested it they would’ve given me some. I really like when there is some cinnamon or pumpkin spice flavoring in the drink too, making it a little more flavorful.

Overall, really delicious, and I would buy it again.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Uncommon Grounds - 1235 Western Ave Albany, NY 12203

A photo of my Uncommon Grounds PSL.

Photo Credit: Lexie Zanghi / the Albany Student Press

They always say save the best for last, and I definitely did for this pumpkin spice experiment. But, I was a bit unlucky on this trip to Uncommon.

When I placed my order, they told me they were out of pumpkin, so I just got a regular latte. Of course, because I love pumpkin, I have my own flavoring at my coffee bar at home. I put approximately a tablespoon of Torani’s pumpkin pie flavoring in the drink.

I love Uncommon Grounds’ lattes, I think they are maybe the best in the area. I love the way the espresso tastes. The milk to espresso ratio is perfect. With the addition of my own personal pumpkin pie flavoring, I downed this drink way too quickly. For $4.27, it’s definitely worth it, I would go back for sure and get a large. The Uncommon in Stuyvesant may have pumpkin, but I know the one in the plaza I went to normally has pumpkin year round. I do wish it came with whipped cream and toppings, but I am sure you can ask for it.

No doubt I will be going back here all fall, and if I don’t like how their flavor and syrup tastes, I’ll just put my own syrup in.

Overall Rating: 9/10

After five straight days of pumpkin spice lattes, I can confidently say that Uncommon Grounds has the best in the area and is the best bang for your buck. So, go get yourself one and get ready for football, fall activities, and spooky movies.

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