The official start of commercialized fall is when you spot the first sign for The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. Fall flavors like pumpkin, ginger, clove and cinnamon are baked into warm breads, cookies and various Trader Joes special edition snacks, and sprinkled in coffee for a few months during the year. The pumpkin spice latte itself seems to be a bit overdone, but cafes are becoming more creative with their fun fall drinks.
On Cornell’s campus, the school-run cafes are offering Starbucks’s PSL, but the few independent cafes — aka Gimme and Café Jennie — have come up with different options. Although I don’t normally choose sweet drinks, I do enjoy the warmth of fall flavors and switching up my normal latte order. I spent a little too much money, but hopefully my taste tests will help others find their new fall favorite.
The first drink I tested was Gimme Coffee’s Ursa Mini for $6, a cold brew with clove syrup and milk. The drink was not sweet at all and had a great amount of spice. The clove flavor was very present, though not overpowering, and was an unexpected addition to the strong and deep cold brew. Overall, the drink was refreshing and calming, and something I would love to order again.
The next two drinks were at Café Jennie — don’t worry, I tried them on different days. The cold brew with pumpkin cold foam was especially exciting, as most cold foams are made with dairy, while Jennie’s is made with oat milk. The drink had an inch of creamy, fluffy, dense cold foam on the top which quickly melted into the cold brew. The cold foam was sweet, but not overly so, and the pumpkin spice contrasted wonderfully with the bitter cold brew. The drink cost around $5.50, which I think is too expensive for an enjoyable but altogether forgettable cold brew with a bit of foam.
I also tried Jennie’s $5 maple latte with oat milk. The latte had a nice layer of thick foam and was overall quite pleasant. Jennie’s espresso is flavorful and delicious, but there was absolutely no maple flavor. I don’t know if the syrup is weak or if the maple flavor is just extremely mild, but I could not find the maple taste at all. This latte was a waste if you were hoping for something special.
The last holiday drink that I tried was the pumpkin spice latte at Mac’s Café, which cost around $5.50. The drink had a thick layer of foam at the top; the foam itself, which was a bit more dense than simple frothed milk, had an unidentifiable flavor. Once I reached the liquid, there was a slight pumpkin flavor which was just a bit sweet. While the spice wasn’t overwhelming at first, it grew more obvious in the aftertaste. The espresso paired well with the pumpkin spice flavor, although it was much milder than I anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by the PSL, as I expected it to be sickly sweet.
If you are in the mood for fall spices and a warm feeling, I would recommend trying some of the drinks around campus. The Gimme Ursa Mini is by far the superior drink, and if you want it warm, you could order a hot latte with the clove syrup. Café Jennie offers a pumpkin latte which has been well reviewed (informally) by friends. And if you are a Starbucks lover, you can get the pumpkin spice latte almost anywhere on campus. Enjoy these spicy drinks while they last.
Melanie Metz is a current senior in the college of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected].