Are You Team Pumpkin Spice or Team Maple?

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

Pumpkin Spice
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:

It’s November! Comment with a 🍂 if you love the #fall season ❤️

A post shared by Nickelodeon (@nickelodeon) on

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.

Maple Latte
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

Pumpkin Spice
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!

Winner: Maple  

Round 6: Pop Culture Comparisons

Marvel Superhero
PSL: Captain America
MPL: Spiderman

PSL: J-Law
MPL: Aubrey Plaza

Fictional Couple
PSL: Torrance Shipman
MPL: Cliff Pantone

Fictional Besties
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. 


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. 

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • Alyssa

    Ha! I once had a job that had free Starbucks as one of the unofficial perks and, after trying the whole seasonal menu, I think you should go with the snicker-doodle hot cocoa.

  • Hayley

    Can I just have a flat white?

  • Abby

    Both are so sweet! They don’t even count as coffee anymore.

    • tuberoseandvetiver

      I ordered one last month and it was soooo sweet I had to dilute it with espresso and water at home lol.

    • jessica marie

      I always ask for half the syrup when I order, soooo much better.

  • gracesface

    It’s 80 degrees in Texas, still ordering iced coffee with CARAMEL syrup.

  • Rachel

    I don’t drink coffee but even if I did I would not drink a PSL because pumpkin is gross, even pumpkin spice chai lattes are gross. Maybe I’m taking the pumpkin thing too far but as some who doesn’t like pumpkin I feel a little excluded from the fall festivities (not sure if that’s the right word idk). I much prefer apple cider drinks as a fall beverage.
    And another note, maple season is actually in the spring since that’s when the trees get tapped so it’s funny that now it’s all of a sudden a fall drink. But I’m sure most of those maple drinks have just as much real maple as the PSLs have real pumpkin in them. As a Canadian who is very passionate about maple I find it disgusting to drink or eat anything with fake “maple” syrup. There is just no point to imitation maple.

    • snakehissken

      Agree, fake maple is a scourge upon humanity. I’ve considered taking a tiny bottle of real syrup to diners with me so I can order waffles without risking that corn syrup swill.

      Maybe it’s a fall drink because “sugar bush latte” would offend the hypersensitive people who got upset about the plain red Starbucks cups for winter.

      • Rachel

        Haha “sugar bush latte”!! I would drink that!

  • I’d go with my usual short Americano, BUT the Canadian in me says maple 4 lyfe.

    Side story, maple lattes aren’t actually new – they came out in 2005 and I was 100% addicted. As soon as one cafe ran out of syrup, I was on to the next until it was all gone. I gained several pounds that winter.

    • EmUhLee

      Yes–maple lattes are also popular here in northern New England and they are so good. The at-home version, which I do a lot, is just to use maple syrup as a sweetener in coffee.

  • Emily

    tap out: for a fall drink, I like a chai latte or just a traditional latte! at a coffee place I like in california, they also make a whiskey latte, with distilled whiskey flavoring, which beats either.

  • Lauren

    Spring’s official drink is a key lime la croix don’t @ me

  • Neither – CHAI IS THE ULTIMATE FALL/WINTER DRINK! I cannot stand the sickly sweet flavor of PSL, it tastes too artificial. Maple usually doesn’t taste like much either, so I go for the deep, spicy flavors of a chai latte. Can’t be beat!

    • disqus_YP80ZqMahm

      I make my chai (indian-style, for cooler weather, with ginger, etc.) with thick, grade B maple syrup! Best of all worlds!

  • Bmo

    Carly Rae Jepsen Song off of Emotion
    PSL: “I Really Like You”
    MPL: “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance”


    • Amelia Diamond

      i know. lol’d all way through

    • SO GOOD

  • Jamie

    Team maple/contrarian hipster 4 lyfe.

  • Amelia

    Team Chai Latte 4 Ever

  • Hayley

    Can I just have the Delicata squash in the photo instead?

  • Neither, peppermint mochas are where it’s at.

  • Alli

    PEPPERMINT forever. In my humble opinion it’s the best fall drink for our sad age of climate change in which fall means 80° and humid in my native Houston, and apparently 65° in New York, and you’re in denial about the heat and really just want to feel an icy breeze brighten up your scarf-wrapped face because WHO CARES IF IT’S 80° YOU’VE BEEN WAITING 8 MONTHS TO FINALLY ROCK A SCARF AGAIN AND ALSO TASTE THE SWEET, SWEET SNAP OF PEPPERMINT MOCHA

  • Sarah

    Peppermint Mocha has my heart <3

  • Emily Stark

    The ultimate spring drink: a peach bellini!

  • Karri

    I like pumpkin spice lattes always been my favorite

  • Both flavours are not as ubiquitous here in the UK. But y’all in the states might want to track down some speculoos. It’s a belgian biscuit that tastes of pure christmas, and it’s been made into a spread (‘biscuit butter’) which you can mix into hot milk to make the best decaff thing you ever tasted in your damn life. Google ‘biscoff spread’.
    La Femme | Unofficially the best lifestyle blog ever

    • Nikelle

      Umm…I would have never ever thought to mix speculoos spread into a liquid for drinking. Thanks : )

  • Nikelle

    I had a full conversation with the barista about how I don’t like maple because its too sweet, she assured me I would be able to get a different drink if the maple pecan tasted too much like maple. I remember liking it but then it was so hot in NYC I kept ordering iced pumpkin spice lattes and those at the real winner!! So. good.