Editor’s Note: this post originally appeared on the Atlanta Coffee Shops blog.
An autumnal 🍂 seasonal drink that isn’t the PSL…
The origin of the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) is strongly associated with Starbucks; the invention of this drink can be credited to Peter Dukes in 2003 and the Starbucks “Liquid Lab.” A 2014 piece from Seattle Met goes into the history of the PSL:
Like any larger-than-life figure, the pumpkin spice latte has an origin story. It has also developed a folk hero in Peter Dukes, a lanky former all-metro point guard for the Roosevelt High School basketball team, with long eyelashes, an almost bashful grin, and a sense of humor about his role as the beverage’s unofficial mascot. He even totes a Styrofoam pumpkin to media interviews to set the mood.
Back in early 2003 he was a product manager in the company’s espresso division. In those days Starbucks’ handful of seasonal drinks were clustered around Christmas. The brand new peppermint mocha had performed well, and, company higher-ups told Dukes they wanted a similarly successful drink for the fall season.
His team compiled a list of about 20 potential flavors. Most were some variation of chocolate or caramel, but a conversation about the tastes of fall can’t get too far before someone brings up Thanksgiving’s signature dessert. So Dukes threw the idea of a pumpkin pie latte in the mix. Not that the idea of combining pumpkin pie spices with lattes descended directly from the heavens down to Starbucks headquarters—places like J.L. Hufford Coffee and Tea Company in Lafayette, Indiana, already had one on the menu—but it was definitely unexplored territory in the world of branded espresso drinks…
For some coffee shops, including Academy Coffee in Atlanta, the PSL represents a bandwagon, “a monster that has spiraled out of control.” And hence, an aptly named fall seasonal drink at Academy Coffee titled “PSL Must Die.”
Over several years, customers who love PSLs would request this drink at Academy Coffee, only to be made aware it was not an option. A study in menu design and customer interactions (adding the “PSL Must Die” specifically to the menu) has not completely eliminated the request for the PSL. This is an interesting phenomenon on the popularity of this drink in the United States. What else is interesting? This is a mini-study in psychology, namely nudging a PSL-loving customer to try something new.
As for the “PSL Must Die” currently on offer as a signature fall drink at Academy Coffee—this is a latte with (apple, quince + lillet) caramel + olive oil. This is the second iteration of the “PSL Must Die” at Academy Coffee, the first having being unveiled in Winter 2018 (latte with sweet potato caramel + allspice).
So for those of you that find the PSL to be overrated (or perhaps overwhelming in taste), consider the more subtle and delicate (in taste, not in name) take on the PSL at Academy Coffee with the “PSL Must Die.” Of course, you can opt for several other options on Academy Coffee’s 2021 Fall Menu (seen below).
Editor’s Note: also see this recent post on the Fall 2021 collaboration between Academy Coffee and Gilly Brew Bar, in which “When You Call, I Answer” was unveiled.