Coffee Wars: Holiday Edition Part 3 – Pumpkin Spice Latte

It feels like I’ve been neglecting my blog lately.  With juggling two jobs, getting prepared for a new school year in January, the impending doom that is Christmas shopping, starting a new relationship, and trying to see my friends and family, I haven’t been doing much for myself lately it feels like.  Between feeling fatigued all the time and getting over a cold that just won’t leave me the hell alone, my “me-time” consists mostly of me sleeping or vegging out for half an hour before sleeping.  I haven’t had time to write, and when I do it feels like a chore.  I haven’t had time to read, whether it be one of the many books I want to read (I’ve been itching to read We Need to Talk About Kevin before I see the film, as well as finish Under the Dome and read 11/22/63), as well as the many blogs I like to keep up with.  So now that I the house is empty, I have the day off, I am going to take some “me-time” and give some attention to my blog.  I got my home-made latte-esque coffee (I’ve perfected microfoam at home, yay me!), and my playlist blaring, and I’m ready to roll.  This has been a post I’ve been wanting to write since the beginning of October, and now that November is half over, I think it’s time to get it done before it’s rendered useless. 

What is that you may be asking?  Well for those of you didn’t read the title…it’s…


It’s been a year since my previous installments of Coffee Wars, which was originally going to be a little series on my blog.  But due to laziness, and then being busy, it got pushed away and forgotten about for a little while.  But coffee is a huge part of my life, even more-so now that I work at a coffee shop, so Coffee Wars has never been too far from my mind.  During a short time around the fall, all of my favourite coffee shops enjoy a Fall themed holiday drink list.  What’s nice about it is that every shop tends to have a wide variety of drinks, and nothing is ever carbon copied from the other store.  There is one drink in particular that seems to make its way into every store though, and that is my favourite seasonal drink: The Pumpkin Spice latte.  I adore this latte, mostly because I love pumpkins.  I love seeing beautiful carved pumpkins, eating pumpkin seeds, The Great Pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, just about everything pumpkin.  This is probably because pumpkins are associated with my favourite holiday: Hallowe’en.  I didn’t get to enjoy Hallowe’en this year, but alas, I did enjoy the lattes.  Now it is time to judge them, to find out who has the best Pumpkin Spice Latte!


First off, I apologize for the blurriness of the image – shaky hands comes with the caffeine lover territory. 

An issue I always encounter with Starbucks is the sweetness of their beverages.  They use a lot more sugar-syrup (used to give the drinks their distinct flavours) than most other coffee shops I find.  This can be really great if you really want something sweet, but if you aren’t a huge sweet-tooth, it can make the drinks a bit overbearing.  Despite this usual occurrence, I didn’t find this drink disgustingly sweet like a lot of their flavoured lattes can be.  It was sweet of course, but perhaps it was extra spice flavours of their pumpkin flavouring that distracted from the sweetness.

This drink to me did remind me of pumpkin pie, it had a nice balance of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  The whipped cream on top reminded me of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, so I think with that in mind, it gave the drink a nice edge compared to some other shops.  It was also the only latte that had an orange tinge to it (once you got passed the whipped cream that is).  That may be in part to how much sugar they add to it, but I thought it was night, it suited the “pumpkin spice” image.

Overall, I really enjoyed Starbucks latte.  It was presented nicely, and had a decent flavour.  Though if I had it on certain days were I just wanted a bit of sweetness, this one wouldn’t really “do it” for me.  I find I have to be in the right mood for a Starbucks drink, they just add too much stuff to their espresso and coffee.  That may be in part to a lot of people not liking the flavour of coffee, which is a shame, because that’s what it should be about.

Overall Score:
Appearance – 5/5
Flavour Balance – 4/5 
Overall Enjoyment – 4/5

Second Cup

Anyone who knows me knows that Second Cup is my favourite place to get coffee.  Mostly that’s because if I want a latte, I find even their sweetest lattes aren’t as sweet as Starbucks, and I prefer my lattes to have a nice balance between the sweetness and the coffee. 

One thing I noticed this year though, is that Second Cup is using a different type of flavouring for their pumpkin spice latte, it’s not much different, but there was just enough of a difference that I noticed it.  I found this flavouring to be a bit stronger in the nutmeg flavour, which isn’t a bad thing, but I found that it made the latte have a slightly earthy flavour.  I enjoyed this, but on occasion when I was in a different mood, it wasn’t giving me the dessert types of flavours that I usually associate with the a pumpkin pie.  It reminded me more of a pumpkin soup – which would have more of a nice balance between savoury and sweet.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy the latte, it was just…different. 

This year they added a caramel topping, which I didn’t enjoy as much.  Usually I wouldn’t get it with it on it, instead opting for a sprinkling of cinnamon, but for the sake of this post I got the caramel.  It did add a very nice appearance to the drink though, and for those hoping for a bit more sweetness, it does add a nice richness to the drink.  It’s just not something I was particular fond of.

Overall Score:
Appearance – 4/5
Flavour Balance – 4/5
Overall Enjoyment – 4/5

Williams Fresh Cafe (Formerly Williams Coffee Pub)

I have a love/hate relationship with Williams.  I don’t generally like their coffee, at least when compared to other places.  However I will admit, it does depend on the time of day – they don’t use carafes like Starbucks of Second Cup, so their coffee tends to get a burnt flavour as the day goes on.  Because they serve food and lots of other products, it does take them a while make drinks and bring them out, and it can be a little annoying if you just want it to go.  But despite that, I keep going back.  Mostly because once in a while I’m very pleasantly surprised.

I ordered their pumpkin spice latte and was very surprised.  Their latte had a really nice balance between sweetness and the savoury flavours of pumpkin pie and the spices attributed with that.  I didn’t find that it was overpowering with one spice or another, but everything was married together very nicely.  It was just sweet enough, but not too sweet that I couldn’t enjoy it. 

Appearance wise, I was also impressed.  Often the latte is rushed over, and is spilling half down my cup.  But on this particular time it looked perfect, or at the very least almost perfect.  The whipped cream was a nice finish, and the light dusting of cinnamon completed the drink.  Now, some may say it may have just been that I was having a good day, or was in a  good mood.  But after looking at this picture, I can recall when I ordered this – it was on a first date.  I remember that day I had a headache, I was nervous, and when I got there I wasn’t in the best mood.  So if I can enjoy a drink when I’m in a bad mood, and distracted by trying to impress someone, then that speaks a lot for the drink. 

Overall Score:
Appearance – 5/5
Flavour Balance – 5/5
Overall Enjoyment – 5/5

So, judging by the scores, Williams Fresh Cafe is the victor for this edition of Coffee Wars.  To be honest, I’m a little surprised.  Williams tends to disappoint me, but judging by their Pumpkin Spice Latte, they obviously still have a few tricks up their sleeves. 

Original photo curtousy of the blog “Foodie, Eh?”

 Before I end this post, I wanted to mention that on December 11th I will be participating in the Second Annual Community Networking Meme.  For rules of participation, check out the original post here.  To see my entry for last year’s post, click here.


8 thoughts on “Coffee Wars: Holiday Edition Part 3 – Pumpkin Spice Latte

  1. I’ll give my vote for the last of the coffees. One of the reasons I don’t go to Starbucks is because I like my coffee without sugar, so imagine the shock for the system when I get one from there and all the sweetness flows inside my veins ….brrr, and because I am a sweet person / 🙂 shame on me/ one can only handle certain amount of honey taste around 🙂

  2. A girl at work yesterday told me about a gingerbread latte at Starbucks. She said it was like crack with coffee! I’m getting one at lunchtime today – got to! I had never heard of anything like it.

    A good read, to see what others think of their coffee – very detailed!

  3. First off, love the banner and the end remark – there can be only one, hahaha. amazing! You do such a stellar job with these coffee wars – it is also free of bias (cause I have a tendency to always side with second cup because I love it so much,haha). You are a great reviewer!

  4. I’m not a pumpkin person per se (although I do love the seeds). I think I would like to try the Williams pumpkin spice. Generally just like sugar and cream with my coffee but I guess a flavored coffee would be a nice try!

    I’m glad to see you are again blogging but don’t worry – sometimes life takes precedence.

    • Well a latte is espresso, which has a darker richer flavour. And the milk is steamed, so it has a bit of a different feel ot it…if that makes any sense. The pumpkin spice from williams would probably be the best for you. None of the drinks taste like “pumpkin” per se, but just the spices associated with pies and stuff.

      Indeed, sometimes life has to take precedence.

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