Surprise, IT’S INSTAGRAM DEATH MATCH TIME! These death matches are traditionally summer spectacles, but since it’s a completely normal 65 degrees here in New York City on this November morning and I wore sandals this past weekend, fuck it — we’ll do it live.
In one corner, we have longtime reigning champ of every hypothetical Fall Death Match we failed to conduct, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Filled to the brim with sugar, spice and everything nice (more sugar), all PSL does is win, win, win, no matter what. Got money on its mind, it can never get enough. And every time it step up in the buildin’, everybody hands go up. And they stay there.
In the other corner we have the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newcomer, Maple Latte. With liquid-gold tree blood flowing through its veins, this equally sugary concoction is vying for the beverage top spot everyone freaks out about once the leaves start changing colors. Will it be the one to finally take PSL down a notch? Probably not because these things take time, but LET’S FIND OUT:
Round 1: Seniority & Insta Visibility
We’re all well aware that pumpkin spice lattes are literally everywhere. There’s probably one behind you right now, don’t look! The PSL has been around since 2003. It has its own acronym. It even has its own Insta account with a cool 37.3K followers, a feat only possible with years of experience and an origin story that begins in a factory owned by a worldwide corporation that has an outpost on every corner so that humans are subliminally brainwashed into becoming dependent on its products, free bathroom and free wifi. The PSL also fancies itself “Fall’s official beverage,” a bold statement because I was unaware official seasonal drinks were a thing (wtf is spring’s? Please advise below).
Perhaps most frightening of all is that upon browsing #pumpkinspicelatte, the top results were things like the below Instagram with nary a beverage in sight:
This leads me to believe that the PSL has transcended the beverage sector and is now an omnipresent je ne sais quoi that possesses both those receptive to its persuasive powers and unsuspecting victims alike from September 1st to December 21st. Chilling.
This round is basically a K.O. for the PSL, but I guess I should try to make an argument for Maple Latte because I already made a “Maple Latte” header up there. #maplelatte clocks in with 5,585 results which isn’t too surprising considering it’s a newcomer on the scene. Just this year, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts both Frankenstein’d the Maple Pecan Latte, which means maple concoctions could finally get the corporate boost they need to, you know, have their own MPL Instagram accounts of take-out coffee cups wearing glasses and shit.
Good effort but today is not that day. Winner: Pumpkin Spice
Round 2: Lifestyle
Pumpkin Spice brings to mind…
Mittens, being okay waiting in lines for thing, going apple picking and taking phenomenal pictures, counting down to things, watching Love Actually exactly five weeks before Christmas because that’s when the movie starts, duh, Harry Potter weekends, “First of all” memes.
Maple brings to mind…
Fingerless gloves, being okay sitting in extremely small coffee shops with no wifi, drinking apples in the form of local ciders instead of picking them, going out of your way to step on crunchy-looking leaves, Harry Potter weekends, “Listens to X once” memes.
Winner: Unsure but I think Maple because of support for small businesses.
Round 3: Taste ‘n’ Such
Taste is subjective AF if I recall, so we’re gonna go strictly by the descriptions Starbucks has on their website for PSLs and MPLs to even the playing field. (Have you ever been to their website, by the way? Weird.)
Pumpkin Spice Latte
“Our signature espresso and milk are highlighted by flavor notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove to create this incredible beverage that’s a fall favorite. Enjoy it topped with whipped cream and real pumpkin pie spices.”
Maple Pecan Latte
“We build on our rich espresso and steamed milk with notes of maple syrup, pecan and brown butter, then finish it with a beautiful sugar topping for a can’t-miss autumn latte.”
Brown butter reminds me of Butter Beer which is sick, but there’s also no option to select “whipped cream” for a MPL, which is whack.
Winner: Probably pumpkin spice (But Ashley made people taste test a variety of pumpkin and maple goodness here if you’re interested.)
Round 4: Douchebaggery
2017 is a complicated time and I’m honestly unsure if the backlash toward contrarian hipsters (Maple) or conforming basic bros and girls (Pumpkin Spice) is stronger, so I’m calling this a TIE.
Round 5: Seasonality
As previously discussed, the PSL is fall in liquid form which sounds both gross and romantic. As such, this beverage is highly seasonal, so much so that you can’t even get it until the latter third of the year. Sad.
Maple, on the other hand, seems much more accessible year-round; it’s more in the chai and honey territory of already-cozy lattes that just seem even cozier and festive in the fall. Worst case, you can pour maple syrup into your latte (after drenching your pancakes, of course) et voila, now you’re a trendy barista, too!
Round 6: Pop Culture Comparisons
PSL: Captain America
MPL: Aubrey Plaza
PSL: Torrance Shipman
MPL: Cliff Pantone
PSL: Rory Gilmore
MPL: Lane Kim
Carly Rae Jepsen Song off of Emotion
PSL: “I Really Like You”
MPL: “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance”
Winner: Idk, please help.
FINAL DEATH MATCH: THE FILTER CHALLENGE
Let’s see what these two look like in tiny squares (top row is Pumpkin Spice, bottom row is Maple):
Okay, what say you?! Should I just order a peppermint latte? Be honest.
Gif by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Creative Direction by Emily Zirimis.