Pumpkin spice latte season is officially upon us, even though in most of the US it’s not exactly sweater weather. Starbucks announced the return of the seasonal drink known to its fans as “PSL” today (Aug. 28), in both hot and iced forms.
PSL devotees have eagerly anticipated this moment since their local Starbucks ran out of pumpkin syrup sometime last winter. But some have pointed out that with much of the country seeing temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it’s not exactly the weather to snuggle up with 20 ounces of pumpkin pie-flavored coffee.
If Aug. 28 seems especially early for PSL season, it is. This is the earliest nationwide PSL launch to date, though in 2014 Starbucks ran a social media promotion making the drink available a few days early to superfans who played an online scavenger hunt game, and the company has run similar promotions in the past.
The drink was introduced nationwide in 2004, after tested in the fall of 2003. Since then, Starbucks has made the drink available, with increasing fanfare, each year on a date that remains a secret until just before, but is generally within a week of Sept. 1 (though demand peaks mid-October).
Some have suggested that to avoid launching PSL on a day better suited for the beach than a foliage walk, the company base the drink’s release on the temperature, and wait until it cools down a bit.
If Starbucks went to a temperature-dependent system, PSL day would likely be progressively later, not earlier. For 13 of the 14 years that the PSL has been spreading cinnamon-spiced cheer, the average temperature for the month of September in the continental US has been above the 20th-century historical mean.
This may all be a moot point soon, however, as non-Starbucks pumpkin spice proliferates, and spreads throughout the year. PSL fervor may reach the point where it overtakes Starbucks’ resolve to stick to the marketing strategy of limiting the drink to its appropriate season—as was the fate of the peppermint mocha, now available year-round.