Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin-spice lattes are in season. Sigh

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Hi Hat's Frost on the Pumpkin
  • Hi Hat's Frost on the Pumpkin

Pull on your yoga pants and your hoodies, everybody, because it's time to talk about fall - specifically, the season's most ubiquitous harbinger: the pumpkin-spice latte. This beverage has become a ritual like pies on Thanksgiving or 10 a.m. beers on Chiefs Sundays. Just ask Twitter.

To wit: "It's so goddamn autumn outside, I want to burn a pile of leaves and make out with a pumpkin spice latte." The only problem: Sometimes a pumpkin-spice latte just isn't as good as we'd like to pretend. How do a few local versions stack up?

MUD PIE'S PUMPKIN-SPICE LATTE
Contains: pumpkin-spice syrup, espresso, soy milk.
Tastes like: skipping work to watch The Craft while wearing a Snuggie.

Mud Pie is all vegan, so its lattes are made with soy milk (or, at your request, almond, coconut or hemp milk). The natural sweetness of the soy complements the pumpkin's earthiness, giving this latte the right amount of flavor. It goes well with Mud Pie's pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffin. It's healthy because it's vegan, right?

LATTÉLAND'S MAPLE-PUMPKIN LATTE
Contains: pumpkin purée, maple syrup, sugar, milk, espresso.
Tastes like: one of those accidental midafternoon naps from which you wake up, find that it's dark and think it's tomorrow.

I tried to order this drink iced, but the barista cautioned me against that choice. Because it's made with actual pumpkin purée, the drink, I was told, is "not very good" cold. The texture is indeed somewhat grainy, even at 180 degrees, so I can imagine that the iced version may be akin to pumpkin-flavored backwash.

That said, this is probably the most authentically pumpkin-flavored latte I've tasted. The maple syrup adds a much-needed dimension of sweetness, and it's very pleasing overall for the first 10 minutes. Just don't let it sit long enough to cool.

HI HAT'S FROST ON THE PUMPKIN
Contains: pumpkin, spice, milk, espresso, ice.
Tastes like: taking all of the candy from one of those buckets with a sign that politely asks you to take only one.

Going to Hi Hat feels like getting your morning coffee from a kiosk inside Hogwarts. Located in a quaint brick house off State Line Road, this cozy café's menu items sometimes sound like something out of a book on spells: the Caramello, the Pom Pom and the Frost on the Pumpkin. The latter drink lives up to the name. In fact, you might feel a little guilty for indulging in this treat, especially in the morning. It's sweet and creamy, and it has the texture of a milkshake, plus the caffeine you need.

ONE MORE CUP'S MAPLE-SPICE LATTE
Contains: maple-spice syrup, nonfat milk, espresso.
Tastes like: planting your face into a fresh pile of crisp autumn foliage.

My pumpkin-spice fixation was getting out of hand by the time I got here. So when I saw maple spice as an alternative, I jumped.

I drank this latte while driving to work, and along the way, I began wondering why I could taste the rust-colored treetops in the pits of my molars. I love everything about One More Cup, but when it comes to fall treats, this latte is a little too real. It's like a crisp autumn breeze all up in my face, bitch.

COFFEE GIRLS' PUMPKIN SHAKE
Contains: pumpkin-spice syrup, malt powder and milk, topped with whipped cream.
Tastes like: bypassing the line - and the shrieking gaggle of high school girls - at the Edge of Hell.

I had this shake for lunch and knew from the first sip that I'd be doing penance later at the gym. It tastes like the real deal - that is, frozen pumpkin pie with a side of vanilla ice cream. You can order it nonfat, but that's silly. Don't skip the whipped cream, either. The only downside: This shake does not contain espresso, though the baristas would probably add some if you asked nicely (and paid them 65 cents).


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