Sunday, September 25, 2016     Volume: 17, Issue: 29
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

In defense of the Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte: Confessions of a 'basic white girl'

BRENNA SWANSTON

I used to be one of them.

It started with the smallest of triggers: a yellowed leaf on the tree outside, or a 15 percent chance of scattered showers in the weather forecast, or a promisingly puffy cloud—that’s all it took. In 30 seconds flat, I’d be at the front of the line in Starbucks, donning boots and leggings and a drapey sweater and a beanie, halfway through my order of a tall pumpkin spice latte (PSL) and already mulling my options for an Instagram filter.


FALL FLAVORS
On Sept. 6, Starbucks debuted its pumpkin spice latte and chile mocha in celebration of autumn.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STARBUCKS

But as the years passed and PSL-induced fall crazes entered the mainstream, I found that my beanie-clad, PSL-obsessed persona wasn’t exactly the picture of originality. There were others like me—no, wait, there were many others like me—and they were being grouped together and designated with what I consider one of the most offensive labels manufactured by the millennial crowd: basic.

My outfits were basic. My Instagram pictures of my boots, standing amid colorful autumn leaves, captioned “I love fall!”—basic. My favorite season? It had become basic. And perhaps the worst symptom of it all: The pumpkin spice latte was basic.


PUMPKIN SCONE
The scone is also out just in time for the fall season.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STARBUCKS

I, and those like me (basic white girls), were the butts of jokes and objects of listicles all over the internet. Buzzfeed called us out in “25 Things All Basic White Girls Do During Fall” (No. 1, of course, was “Get on that pumpkin spice latte grind”). Thought Catalog compiled a list of 50 tweets about white girls and pumpkin spice lattes (“Come join us at the intersection where race, gender, and Starbucks collide”). The Huffington Post reviewed a pumpkin spice latte highlighter (as in, makeup highlighter—admittedly a little much), which the author said “exists because basicness has no limits.”

And so, in a youthful attempt at uniqueness, I retreated from the scene for a few years. But now I’m back, and I’m basic, and I don’t freaking care. And I will defend the pumpkin spice latte, in all its basic glory, because you know what? It tastes pretty good.The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte: espresso and milk, of course, dotted with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice. It’s warm, frothy, sweet, and—most importantly—nostalgic. It’ll have you bouncing off the walls, due more to the sugar than the espresso. It’s a tasty autumnal treat. And no one should be ashamed to enjoy a tasty autumnal treat.

So basic
Starbucks officially released all things fall into your local stores on Sept. 6. To start experiencing what the fall season is all about, be sure to stop in and order your grande pumpkin spice latte, salted caramel mocha, and chile mocha with extra whip and one pumpkin scone and one slice of pumpkin bread all warmed up to go. #FirstPSL.

Sure, the PSL has gotten a big head over the years. It’s gathered a cult following. It has its own Instagram account (see: @therealpsl). It started a hashtag trend (#FirstPSL). And its debut each year (this year it landed on Sept. 6) tends to overshadow the release of other Starbucks fall favorites—namely the salted caramel mocha, which is alarmingly delicious, by the way. (We get pumpkin bread as well, and this year, we’re also introduced to the chile mocha—it both intrigues and scares me, and I haven’t tried it yet.)

But if you’re going to opt out of enjoying some PSL lovin’ this fall—if you’re going to pass on the boots-and-leggings look and the Instagram posts of colored leaves—don’t let your reason be that it’s all too basic. (Because, no offense, that’s a stupid reason.)

Starbucks only offers the PSL for a few months, so grab your boots and get to the nearest location and place that order. Shamelessly. 

Brenna Swanston knooows she’s feeding the corporate coffee machine, sorry. Yell at her at bswanston@santamariasun.com.