Monday, April 22, 2013

READER REVIEW: Winston's Review of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Being a big Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) fan, and a huge fan of most things seasoned with pumpkin spice, I nearly performed backflips when the Ice Cream Informant announced the launch of Starbucks “Pumpkin Spice Latte” Ice Cream, actually found a pint, and reviewed it with a “B”. It took me around a month to find it after he reviewed it (believe me, I looked high and low), and I decided to hold off on gorging myself until recently, as I’m not particularly fond of caffeine consumption in the evenings.

Lifting the lid revealed an ocean of matte orange ice cream without any particularly exciting swirls or solids. This comparatively less stimulating eye candy certainly didn’t surprise me, as the hot beverage is no more than a sweetened latte with the addition of pumpkin spice and optional whipped cream. I salivated at the anticipation of a remarkably rich coffee ice cream and at the end of a four month abstinence of all things pumpkin spice. The first bite revealed a mild coffee base with lighter notes of pumpkin spice, a strong cream presence, and a below average sweetness. Nothing impressive, and my senses certainly weren’t aroused. The second bite provided similar returns. Confusion ensued; the initial experience did not parallel the pumpkin spice richness of a traditional PSL, nor did the sweetness or coffee notes match that of any traditional Starbucks latte. Third, fourth, and fifth bites deep into the pint revealed an interesting color contrast in the pint: swirls of light brown ice cream (presumably coffee) amongst orange (presumably pumpkin spice). Unfortunately, the two flavors seemed indistinguishable, and they resulted in a similarly comparatively bland experience as the first and second bites.

Shocked at my findings, I rushed my pint upstairs to my wife, also a fanatic of all things sweet. After one bite, she had no interest in a second. To give you an understanding of the significance of her reaction: my wife absolutely loves PSL’s, is a huge fan of coffee ice cream, and she was hungry at the time of the taste test.

I decided to allow the pint to soften, thaw and give it a second change. Perhaps, like some gelatos, it’s twice as good when slightly melted. Unfortunately, even though the dessert softened, it still didn’t portray strong coffee notes, lacked real sweetness, and simply tasted more like a mildly seasoned cream-rich dessert. Compared to Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream and Ben and Jerry’s coffee ice cream base, this base is far less rich, and didn’t seem to be nearly as sweet. I’m going to assume I’ve been spoiled by these two brands though, as well as their higher calorie contents (Starbucks PSL: 220kcal, Haagen Dazs Coffee: 260kcal, Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz: 260kcal) Further, while Starbucks’ PSL Ice cream base, I suppose, isn’t 100% coffee (it’s a blend of pumpkin spice and coffee Ice Creams), its beverage counterpart certainly is close to 99.99% coffee (latte) and 00.01% pumpkin spice powder. In essence, the experience from the beverage logically shouldn’t and does not carry over to the dessert.

Because The Ice Cream Informant endured a more positive experience with this dessert than I did, and because we both enjoy PSL’s and have somewhat similar tastes in ice cream, I’m going to assume that my pint probably doesn’t reflect the quality of all of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte ice creams. Still though, I suggest PSL lovers proceed with caution, as my overall experience proved to be a general disappointment. Did it taste good? I suppose. Was it great? Absolutely not.

Where Winston Found It: Giant Eagle
Winston's Grade: C

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