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The Origins of Pumpkin Spice

Aug 4, 2022 | Blog, Coffee

That first hint of crispness in the air. Trees turning from lush green to red, yellow, and orange. A new scattering of leaves on the ground, soon to be crunching underfoot.

None of these things heralds the arrival of autumn quite like the first scent of a pumpkin spice latte.

Hot, heavenly pumpkin spice beverages are now beloved the world over, with millions flocking to their local coffee shops every year to get their fix. Surprisingly, the pumpkin spice everything craze is a more recent phenomenon.

The origins of pumpkin spice coffee are linked to the pumpkin spice food fad, at large, and one coffee shop chain’s landmark creation, in particular.

Counting the days until that first sip? Bide your time by diving into the origins of the pumpkin spice latte.

What Is Pumpkin Spice Exactly?

It may come as a shock to some readers that pumpkin spice does not, in fact, contain a trace of pumpkin. Instead, it gets its name from the spices used to flavor pumpkin pie (and other pumpkin-related desserts and pastries). This blend traditionally includes ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice – and sometimes cloves and mace.

According to Better Homes & Gardens, the origins of pumpkin spice can be traced back to the early 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company assumed control of the Southeast Asian Islands where these spices were originally found. Those islands and their goods helped the Dutch East India Company make its fortune and, subsequently, several mixed spice blends that resembled today’s popular mix.

It wasn’t long before the forerunner of today’s pumpkin spice blend made its way to the New World, and in 1796, the first American cookbook – Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” – featured a pie recipe that would serve as the forerunner for everything to come.

It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that food companies began to market pumpkin spice to the masses. Thompson & Taylor Spice Company led the charge with their nine-spice blend in 1933. But McCormick ultimately claimed legendary status with their offering, which is still going strong today.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Changes the World

It’s wild to think, but pumpkin spice – which admittedly had maintained its tried-and-true reputation with every Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas feast – made a comeback in the biggest way possible all thanks to coffee.

Before there were limited-edition pumpkin spice cereals or bubble gum or SPAM – there was the pumpkin spice latte.

No one can say for sure who initially paired pumpkin spice with America’s favorite hot beverage, but the credit is routinely given to Starbucks its former director of espresso, Peter Dukes.

What we know for a fact is when the coffee chain launched its follow-up to the eggnog latte and peppermint mocha back in 2003, the coffee industry, coffee enthusiasts, and the world at large were altered forevermore.

To date, Starbucks has sold more than 500 million pumpkin spice lattes worldwide, and the creation has been adopted and rebranded by almost every other coffee chain on earth in one way or another. (The Starbucks PSL is expected to hit stores once again in late August 2022.)

From there, the floodgates were opened wide. Over the last several years, the pumpkin spice phenomenon has only intensified, as more and more marketers and food companies devise innovative new ways to imbue their products with that memory-triggering flavor and smell of pumpkin spice. From pumpkin spice ice cream to pumpkin spice potato chips to pumpkin spice dog treats (yes, dog treats), it seems the fad is here to stay.

But the best, and most reliable, version – in our humble opinion – will always be coffee.

Orinoco Does Pumpkin Spice Proud

Orinoco fans who are ready for a taste of autumn are in luck.

Our pumpkin spice blend offers the familiarity of Grandma’s pie with a warm and mild spiciness that will keep you cozy straight through autumn and beyond. Try a bag – and our other pumpkin spice-related products – today.