By Madison Gillespie
In the middle of fall, no drink satisfies many of us quite like a pumpkin spice latte. Just one sip of the iconic beverage is enough to transport people into the autumn spirit, and excitement for the drink builds throughout the season. While the PSL is most widely associated with Starbucks (as it was first introduced by the coffee company in 2003), many other cafés offer their own versions of the drink or pumpkin-flavored coffees in general. This is certainly the case for coffee shops around U of I, too. So if you’re out and about and in the mood for pumpkin spice, consider one of the following local options before making another Starbucks run.
Located: 5617, 630 S 5th St, Champaign, IL 61820
A popular independent cafe on campus, Brewlab offers coffee, tea, sodas, and milkshakes with a quaint and cozy atmosphere (and plenty of potted plants you could buy and take home with you). During the fall, Brewlab’s seasonal drink offerings don’t disappoint, and the same can be said about their take on the pumpkin spice latte. Made with a blend of real pumpkin puree, this PSL is not nearly as spice-y or sweet as Starbucks and has a more earthy flavor. I really like that it does not have as much spice or added sugar, because this allows you to focus on the sweet, creamy flavor naturally occurring in the pumpkin. The whole drink is also expertly blended, allowing even the puree to go down smoothly. If you want a more toned-down PSL with more of a natural flavor, this is the drink for you.
Located: E Daniel St, W Oregon St, Gies College of Business Instructional Facility (BIF), Grainger Engineering Library, Undergraduate Library
While Espresso Royale also makes pumpkin spice lattes, I wanted to instead highlight a very different – and very delicious – pumpkin drink these locations offer: the Pumpkin Polar Cap. The Polar Cap is a frozen coffee beverage that is fairly new to Espresso Royale’s menu (you can find an in-depth review on the standard version of this drink here), and it has been wildly popular among students. After trying this variation of it, I am certain that pumpkin Polar Caps will also become a fall favorite. The mix of pumpkin and spices perfectly complements the rich espresso flavor, all blended to the same smooth, chilled perfection of the original beverage. It is truly like a pumpkin-flavored milkshake, but not as heavy and with an added caffeine boost. Those who tend to prefer their PSLs iced will likely have a field day with this drink, although I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Located: 608 E University Ave, Champaign, IL 61820
If you find yourself on the north part of campus, make sure to give Hammerhead’s PSL a try. Their variation on the drink features a custom blend of spices, including some that also go into their Chai lattes, making for a very unique flavor profile. Similar to Brewlab, this pumpkin spice latte is also not as sweet and focuses more on the rich, natural flavors of the spices. In this case, I would say these flavors are even more apparent than the pumpkin flavor itself. Regardless, the drink is still satisfying and will likely fulfill your PSL fix. The warm, faded atmosphere inside Hammerhead is also well worth the walk. Definitely consider staying a while to work on homework or study as you enjoy your huge, steaming mug of pumpkin, spice, and everything nice.