Fans of autumnal flavors and annual traditions no longer have to wonder when the Pumpkin Spice Latte is returning to Starbucks, because PSL season is here, baby. The Pumpkin Spice Latte officially returns on September 6, marking the 13th year in a row that Starbucks has celebrated the start of fall with this squash-inspired beverage (now made with actual pumpkin!). But if that's still not soon enough for the hardcore PSL fans out there, don't fret. There's a chance you can get early access to the drink today, September 1, if you check your Starbucks Rewards account and keep an eye on Twitter.
And though the start of the season is always something to celebrate, there are a few other new additions to the Starbucks menu that are worthy of mention. This season is all about spice, as Mackenzie Karr, a coffee education specialist for Starbucks explained to me at one of the company's stores in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, so Starbucks is also launching a chile mocha on September 6, available for a limited time only. I was expecting a super sweet drink, but this mocha is made with finely ground cocoa, rather than Starbucks sweet mocha syrup, so the taste is way more subtle, less sugary yet still chocolatey. The drink is then topped with a spicy mocha powder, made of cane sugar, chili pepper, cinnamon, sea salt, and paprika.
Mixing savory and salty flavors with sweet is old hat for Starbucks—like the salted caramel mocha or the now-discontinued smoked butterscotch Frappuccino—but the kick of the chili pepper and the paprika is something totally new. There's no need to be intimidated by the heat, though. The chile mocha was described to me as "totally approachable," and it totally was. The spice was definitely there, but more of a way to enhance the taste of the chocolate rather than an experience of taking chilis to the face. (Karr also recommended that you talk with your barista if you have any questions about the heat or want to go light on the spice.)
The other big change coming to Starbucks this season is the addition of almond milk to the menu, starting at 4,600 stores on September 6 and eventually rolling out everywhere by the end of the month. So vegans and dairy-free PSL fans rejoice, because you'll now be able to order your PSL with almond milk. The almond milk recipe is proprietary to Starbucks, and unlike the company's other dairy-free options, it's pretty low in sugar, with only 3 grams per 8-ounce serving. To put that in perspective, the soy milk has about 14 grams of sugar for an 8-ounce serving, while coconut milk, which was released last year, has a little less than 9 grams. That makes it a slightly more neutral flavor than the other non-dairy options, and, in my personal opinion, the best base for the PSL.
So go forth, dig up your favorite chunky knit sweater, and find a pile of leaves to jump into, because it's official PSL season—now in almond milk.