Lessons From the Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage


You guys.  It’s safe to go outside again.

The Great Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage of 2012 has ended.  Apparently at some point last week, Starbucks declared the “pumpkin emergency” to be over and PSL was once again in plentiful supply.  Soccer Mom riots nationwide were narrowly averted.

It’s all going to be OK.  No Lululemons were torn in the fracas.

Personally, I was not one of the victimized masses of this near-tragedy.  Mostly because — sssshhhh — I don’t really get the whole PSL rage.  You can have my ration — I just want my high-maintenance grande, skim, no foam latte.  And probably a cake pop.  OK, two.

More broadly, I’m not an advocate of the Let’s Flavor All Possible Fall Food & Drink Items With Pumpkin rage, which seems to grow more extreme every year.  Growing up, I remember pumpkin pie and, well, that’s it.  Now, you can’t get away from gourd-infused recipes.  Pumpkin cream cheese.  Pumpkin ice cream.  Pumpkin-stuffed-pumpkin with a side of pumpkin sauce.  You want to stroke out?  Enter “pumpkin recipes” on the search bar of Pinterest.  It’s like another universe to me.  But this is a rant for another day.

Because I want to get back to PSL-Gate.  During the acknowledged shortage, there were customer tweets of rage, as well as national news coverage and official PR responses from Starbucks.  Oh, and eBay sales of alleged PSL mix.  Yes, really.

Had this not been resolved quickly, I fear we were mere days away from a rogue high school chemistry teacher going all Breaking Bad and cooking his own PSL for illicit distribution. {Not a bad business model, incidentally.  Maybe getting ahead of the curve and setting up your own Peppermint Latte Mix cooking crew now could pad your pockets with some extra holiday cash, in the event of a similar shortage.  Get your hands on a stash of those red seasonal Starbucks cups and, guys, you are in serious business.  You are the Walter White of overpriced holiday coffees.}

Anyway, it was close call, indeed.

If you or someone you love was affected by this issue, I hope you came through it OK with a satisfactory back-up beverage.  But now that things are settling down, I’d like to reflect on how an event like this could genuinely fuck up some real holiday season delights.

Imagine, if you will, a shortage of these must-have items:

  • Tryptophan.  Sweet Jesus, it’s bad enough that Thanksgiving falls a mere two weeks after the election — at which point I will be breaking bread with many a family member on the opposite end of the political spectrum.  If I can’t count on a post-turkey fit of narcolepsy, I will have to rely solely on liquor to get me through the day.  Again.
  • Egg nog.  This one may stir up debate — egg nog is divisive, no doubt.  Personally, I’m firmly in the pro-nog camp.  This may take the starring role of all the holiday food and drink items in which I vastly overindulge in the name of “It’s only once a year.”**  So while it’s true that an egg nog shortage could potentially bank me about 16,000 calories to use elsewhere, it would be missed.  And then I’d have an unwieldy rum and nutmeg surplus.

                      **where “once a year” = two full calendar months, on a daily basis

  • Any and all items in the Trader Joe’s holiday candy line-up.  What else will I eat while I stress out about the following night’s Elf on the Shelf placement?  Oh yes, I’m looking at you, Peppermint Waffle Cookies and Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s.  Wait for me in  aisle 4, loves.

These are the shortages that would really cause some medium to long-term damage for me.  And, yes — clearly, all holiday spirits, specialty drinks and wine fall into this category.  I figured that went without saying but you can’t be too careful.

I’m feeling a little panicky now, I have to admit.  If this could happen to PSL, what else is possible?  I mean, we’ve already been warned about a likely worldwide bacon shortage in 2013.

What next?

Stock up on your favorites, I say.  I mean, we don’t have to go all Hoarders in the grocery/liquor stores.  Use common sense.  Make a reasonable effort to look like you have some self-control and discretion.  Even if you’re screaming on the inside.  Stay calm and slowly, selectively, fill up your cart.

Let’s learn from this tragedy and take back some control over our favorite holiday treats.  Before it’s too late.

Now get going.


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  1. NancyB says:

    Chuckling at this because earlier I got my daily recipe from AllRecipes = Pumpkin Pasta. Haha.

  2. JenK says:

    The locally owned coffee shop was trying to entice me w/pumpkin blah blah & cinnamon something or otherwhen I was simply wanting a large plain ol brewed coffee. I finally cut her off by saying “Thank you but I dont like Fall flavors.” She looked at me as if I had said “Can I get me a side of toasted kittens please?” I had to laugh at the shock and disdain in her face.

  3. Dude. You put *paprika* on your eggnog? Not nutmeg?

    I am pro-pumpkin spice and pro-nog. Give me my sugary coffee drink or give me … sleep.

    • fordeville says:

      Whoa! Who hijacked my keyboard and typed paprika?! Now I have no egg nog credibility…
      I’m going to change it in the original post, lest everyone thinks I’ve already had too much holiday rum. It is rum, right?
      {Let the record show that I inadvertently said I had paprika with my nog. Changed 10/24, head hanging in shame…}

  4. sparkling74 says:

    I am with you on the anti pumpkin everything front. In fact, I no longer even like pumpkin pie. Because actual pumpkin tastes nothing like what those companies would have us believe. Actual pumpkin isn’t great, actually.

    I don’t believe there are these “shortages”. I think companies make it up to make us want more and cause an uproar. Chobani did it last year and they’re doing it again right now. It’s just not right!!

    You’ll have to read my latte post to know the second reason I am not at all interested in the PSL!! http://sparkling74.blogspot.com/2012/04/just-regular-coffee-please.html

    • fordeville says:

      So now there’s a run on Chobani too? And that’s even harder to hoard — with its shelf life and all.
      Saw your post — you poor thing — I am happy to be your Starbucks Ambassador of Good Caffeinated Will if you ever choose to venture in there again!

  5. This? Hilarious. I don’t really get the pumpkin beverage thing either (shhhhh), but I will tear me up some punkin pie!

  6. {gemmifer} says:

    The exact reason I bought two tins of Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate last week and plan to buy another two each time I visit until they sell out. Saw it on the shelf last holiday season but decided to wait until my next visit to try some. No dice; every store in my area was sold out. Looks like a similar situation’s happening with all their pumpkin-infused products this year too.

    • fordeville says:

      Wait, what? Sipping Chocolate?! How do I not know about this? It sounds like my kryptonite. I’m going to Trader Joe’s right now to check this out (and secure my stash).

  7. Kacey says:

    kurbis soup from Germany = best food on Earth! Pumkins rock! Lol

  8. junebug says:

    I used to be a firm PSL devotee but must admit I have moved to the Salted Caramel Mocha camp. I do love anything pumpkin. Sorry! However, I’m undecided about trying the new Pumpkin flavored Pringles.

    • fordeville says:

      Pumpkin Pringles? Oh, no. That’s just wrong.
      But I am intrigued by the Salted Caramel Mocha — that looks highly addictive.

  9. Karin Lesko says:

    Thought you might want to know that it’s not only the food supply that is pumpkin-infected. I’m currently in LA where my hotel spa offers a pumpkin facial as well as “spiced cider pumpkin mani-pedis”. Where do I sign up?

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