STARBUCKS VIA INSTANT PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

Welcome to Day 3 of Tag Sale Tastes’ Pumpkinpalooza!

Today, with some hesitancy, I tried Starbucks Via Instant Pumpkin Spice Latte:

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So what if it was 90 degrees out?  The package offered hints of “crisp autumn air,” and that sounds pretty good right about now in Houston.

Starbucks has teased fans of its Pumpkin Spice Latte (“PSL”) with the promise of real pumpkin in it this year, but that must just apply to in-store PSLs, unless “natural flavors” includes pumpkin.

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Inside the box are 5 packets of powdered mix:

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Preparation is simple — open the packet, pour it into a mug, add 8 ounces of hot water, stir, and “enjoy.”

Here’s what the powdered mix looks like:

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I want to stop here and say that this product is a rip-off of General Foods International Coffees, popular in the 1970s and 1980s, and whose target audience was “middle-aged women who love to laugh and reminisce . . . and drink instant coffee.”  The biggest differences are that General Foods did it better, and Starbucks’ target audience, I have come to understand, appears to be white girls in yoga pants.

The first thing I noticed after pouring the contents of the packet into the mug was the overwhelming scent — I wouldn’t call it an aroma.  It made me a little nauseous, kind of like the mom who sat in front of me in the auditorium at a recent school function — she showed up late and had doused herself with perfume, which I really resented as I sat there with my eyes burning and trying not to sneeze.  The smell of the latte mix was very sweet and very odd, and not at all autumnal.

Forging ahead, I added hot water, stirred, and sat back to “enjoy” my instant PSL.

IMG_6761Alas, enjoyment was not to be had.  I’ll get right to it — I thought this was awful.  It didn’t taste like pumpkin or spice, more like burnt hot cocoa with curdled milk.  It almost had a cheese-like note.  It was, quite frankly, disgusting.

As I tried to get the awful taste out of my mouth left behind by this witches’ brew, I couldn’t help but wonder, how did PSL become a thing?  I have to assume that the in-store version, personally prepared by a Starbucks barista, has to be better.  And so, one day soon, I will force myself to borrow a pair of yoga pants and go into a Starbucks and stand in line for an eternity and try to understand why a small beverage is called a tall beverage and order a PSL, so that I can try to understand how it is that this drink created a nationwide craze for all things pumpkin spice.

Rating:  1 pumpkin.

PEPPERIDGE FARM PUMPKIN SPICE SWIRL BREAD

Welcome to Tag Sale Tastes’ Pumpkinpalooza!  Despite the fact that it’s still technically summer for another three weeks (but really, go ahead and put those white shoes up), the stores are already full of a veritable pumpkin patch of pumpkin spice products and autumn décor.  I’ll be checking out some of these products, for better or worse, along with some recipes and other pumpkinalia.  Let me know if you see any pumpkin spice products that you think merit consideration!

Like Tina Turner in Proud Mary, I’m going to take the beginning of Pumpkinpalooza and do it easy.  And so, to kick off Pumpkinpalooza, I’ll begin with Pepperidge Farm’s limited edition Pumpkin Spice Swirl bread:

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This is one of ten different swirl breads that Pepperidge Farm offers.  Who knew?

Checking the ingredients, you’ll notice that pumpkin is one of the ingredients, although it is so far down on the list that I have to wonder if it’s just there for show:  IMG_6728The pale slices are thick-sliced, with a faint spice (?) swirl and dotted with little cinnamon-flavored blobs:

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If you try this bread straight out of the package, you’ll probably find yourself checking more than once to see if, in fact, you are nibbling on the package and not the bread.  But — if you lightly toast the bread and butter it, it morphs into something that is actually quite good.

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In fact, my kids love this bread.  I don’t necessarily know that I could tell the difference between this and Pepperidge Farm’s Cinnamon Swirl bread if I were eating it blindfolded — seems like one spice swirl is pretty much the same as the next.  But if you want to ease into pumpkin spice season gently, a little pumpkin spice swirl toast in the morning is a pleasant way to do so.

Rating:  3-1/2 pumpkins