The Philippines’ franchise of Starbucks just recently announced that Pumpkin Spice drinks are once again available. Of course their Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL) has a large (cult-like) following in the states which makes sense since, well Autumn/Fall along with Thanksgiving Day is such an important period of time in the year for Americans. Why, though, is it still selling in the Philippines?
Now there isn’t really any Pumpkin in Pumpkin Spice, rather the name refers to the spices used in seasoning Pumpkin Pie – Pumpkin Spice is also called as Pumpkin Pie Spice. These sweet, aromatic spices seem to change per recipe, but it always includes cinnamon and nutmeg. Some have allspice, clove, and even ginger. Researchers from Johns Hopkins have an understanding as to why Americans love Pumpkin Spice: the smell of it reminds them of Autumn/Fall and with that includes Thanksgiving day (and to some extent, Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
From what I gather, Autumn/Fall is a season lots of them look forward to after the hot summer months. It’s the start of school, reuniting with friends and family, the surrounding looks so instagrammable (it’s like golden hour most of the time), and then Thanksgiving. Also, with the trick of something coming and going, it has created the perfect storm of nostalgia that almost anything slapped with “Pumpkin Spice” sells a ton of volume. Don’t believe me? Why would they sell Pumpkin Spice dog treats if they knew these would not sell during this period? Would their dogs really care about Pumpkin Spice? How about Pumpkin Spiced Toilet Paper?
The success of the PSL banks on the Pumpkin Spice phenomena along with the comfort of coffee and, well the status symbol that is a Starbucks cup.
So, why would a tropical country that only has “wet” and “dry” seasons and have no reason to celebrate Thanksgiving be enticed with anything Pumpkin Spice? A keen following of western culture. We hear it mentioned by US influencers, we see it on Instagram, even some US shows may mention it. What may have started out as curiosity as to what the PSL tastes like (and if there really is Pumpkin in it) has now become being used to something that has limited availability.
Although, to be fair, some of these spices are also familiar to us and which we may also relate to comfort, though not all together in one dish. Filipinos know ginger, we use it in Salabat, we add it in soups, and we also add it in lugaw/goto/arroz caldo (or porridge/congee) which may evoke memories of comfort. We’re also familiar with cinnamon and to some extent, nutmeg (I have both in my pantry) and these are usually encountered in sweet delicacies meant to be enjoyed as a treat, like a pricey cinnamon bun. It may not be as strong as with Americans, but Pumpkin Spice may also have that nostalgic appeal to Filipinos especially since we love sweet coffee drinks, and the status symbol that is a Starbucks cup.
Personally, I only tried PSL once and didn’t really think anything special about it. I bought it out of curiosity, and I think it was the first time it got released in the Philippines. I admit, I also thought there was some sort of Pumpkin in it but quickly realized it tasted something like Speculoos/Biscoff cookies with coffee and it may have alluded to the spices (and sugar). If you like it, don’t forget to follow safety protocols when making a PSL coffee run or better yet, look to have it delivered to you. This is not sponsored by Starbucks.
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