Opinion: I tasted every pumpkin-spice drink in Iowa City. Here’s what I learned.

Winter is coming, but these autumn drinks are still worth it.

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Opinion: I tasted every pumpkin-spice drink in Iowa City. Here’s what I learned.

The Java House is seen on August 30, 2019.

The Java House is seen on August 30, 2019.

Raquele Decker

The Java House is seen on August 30, 2019.

Raquele Decker

Raquele Decker

The Java House is seen on August 30, 2019.

Emily Wangen, Photojournalist

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Despite coffee chains such as Dunkin’ and Starbucks releasing their winter and holiday drinks, which include gingerbread, praline, and peppermint flavors and the increasingly popular eggnog latte, I still believe pumpkin-spice season is alive and well.

Iowa City has a plethora of options for caffeination. We also have a large variety of fall-themed drinks for all echelons of pumpkin-spiced obsession.

Each recipe for pumpkin spice varies, creating noticeable differences between coffee shops’ recipes, but there are a few key ingredients that remain constant throughout the different iterations; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sometimes allspice and cloves. Those ingredients mixed with espresso and milk create what should be known as the official drink of fall.

As a true pumpkin lover and espresso enthusiast, I can proudly say that I’ve tried nearly every pumpkin spice latte in my three years in Iowa City.

For the most authentic taste: Bread Garden Market

For those who want their PSL to taste more like an actual serving of pumpkin pie rather than a sugary drink, look no further than the Bread Garden Market pumpkin spice latte. Unlike many places who use a syrup or sauce to create their pumpkin spice lattes, Bread Garden uses real pumpkin puree mixed with espresso and milk, you can’t get any closer to a true pumpkin taste. For those not into the taste of coffee, Bread Garden also offers a pumpkin pie smoothie.

For those expanding into pumpkin spice: T.Spoons

So you’re not a big fan of pumpkin spice, but want to see what all the fuss is about. T.Spoons offers a pumpkin mocha that has just the slightest hint of pumpkin flavor mixed with chocolate to create a sweet drink perfect for fall.

The Classic: Starbucks

After its’ release 16 years ago, the Starbucks PSL has led the pack in the market for pumpkin spice. The PSL, like many of the Seattle-based company’s signature drinks, comes in three different forms; hot, iced, or as a Frappuccino. Pro tip: add white chocolate sauce to increase the sweetness (if you’re into that sort of thing).

However, this season Starbucks changed the game with the introduction of the Pumpkin Cream cold brew — sweet cream with pumpkin spice sauce on top of Starbucks’ cold brew and topped with pumpkin-spice topping. The drink is served with a special lid that perfectly balances the cold brew with the cream. It’s perfect for those looking for a more subtle pumpkin flavor, and dare I say, better than the original.

The GOAT: Java House

Hands down, the best pumpkin spice latte is the pumpkin pie latte from Java House. The coffee shop, which has been in Iowa City since 1994, has great-tasting espresso and a variety of milk options that enhance the subtle-yet-sweet pumpkin syrup flavor.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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