It’s fall in America, and that can only mean one thing. Every coffee shop out there has put the iconic and legendary pumpkin spice latte back on the menu. Most cafes also offer the delicious alternative of pumpkin spice tea for those who don’t like coffee or have a caffeine sensitivity.
This drink has become synonymous with fall in the past two decades, but the spice mix has a long history that predates its meteoric rise to fame as a coffee drink. Even now, it continues to evolve, with recipes mixing up your choice of tea leaves, milk quantity, and syrup choices to create new variations for your pumpkin spice tea.
Pumpkin spice is a spice mix in American cuisine originally intended for pumpkin pies. The blend consists of ingredients such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. Some recipes incorporate one or two tablespoons of pureed pumpkin in drinks to add pumpkin flavor and create a thicker, creamier beverage.
For a drink on the healthier side, the addition of freshly pureed pumpkin can also add some sweetness and creaminess, eliminating the need for milk and sugar.
The original pumpkin spice blend was a part of the 1798 cookbook American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. Her recipe was intended to flavor a pumpkin pie and included two variations. The base consisted of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. One variant added allspice, while the other added nutmeg.
In the 1930s, companies that sold spices like McCormick & Company and Thompson & Taylor Spice Company began releasing spice blends such as Pumpkin Pie Spice, which was an instant hit. The original pumpkin spice blend included nine different spices, but today consists of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
In 2003, Starbucks launched the iconic pumpkin spice latte. Peter Dukes, the director of espresso at the time, usually gets the credit for bringing this drink into the mainstream. His team also helped create other Starbucks legends like the peppermint mocha and the eggnog latte. The pumpkin spice latte continues to be one of the most popular drinks on the Starbucks menu, with over 400 million sales in the U.S. alone.
Pumpkin spice tea is a variation on that pumpkin spice latte, frequently sold as pumpkin chai in coffee shops.
Pumpkin spice tea and pumpkin chai are very similar, and some coffee shops may consider them interchangeable. More often, pumpkin spice is part of coffee drinks like lattes.
Chai is a spiced tea from India, consisting of all the same spices found in pumpkin spice, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, and allspice. Chai tends to include cardamom in addition to those.
Regular chai can be paired with pureed pumpkin to get that pumpkin flavor and differentiate it from traditional chai.
A traditional pumpkin spice tea doesn’t taste like pumpkin, because most coffee shops do not incorporate any pumpkin into the drink. Instead, pumpkin spice tea consists of a spice blend and black tea.
The black tea provides a bold, robust flavor while the spices create a warming sensation in the mouth. if the blend includes allspice or black pepper, you can expect a light kick as an aftertaste.
There are a few options when brewing yourself a cup of pumpkin spice tea. Any grocery store will likely carry pumpkin spice tea in the fall. These pre-prepared tea bags can be an easy way to get your pumpkin spice fix with minimal effort. Just brew according to the instructions on the box.
For those who want to create their own pumpkin spice blend, you’ve got endless options. A traditional mixture has four parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, 2 parts nutmeg, and one part cloves. You can put this spice mix in any baked good or mix it with loose-leaf black or rooibos tea.
Take your tea blend and put 2-3 tablespoons into a tea pot with boiling water. Brew for 3-5 minutes and drink as is or mix with your choice of sweetener and milk.
Traditional pumpkin spice doesn’t have to be the only way you enjoy your tea. Whether preparing your drink at home or order at a coffee shop, there are plenty of ways to mix up your pumpkin spice tea.
The first option for variation is the kind of tea used. Some pumpkin spice variations may not use tea or coffee at all and consist only of pumpkin puree and the spice blend. Black tea is the most popular choice of tea leaves for pumpkin spice tea. While some coffee shops may use herbal tea to create a caffeine-free alternative, rooibos is the best option for a caffeine-free pumpkin spice tea with its bold, robust flavor.
The amount and type of milk can affect the flavor of your drink as well. Nowadays, there are dozens of milk options on the market whether you consume dairy or not. Oat milk is usually the most popular non-dairy alternative because it froths well. You can go for a traditional tea latte style with half milk half tea, or you can go for just a bit of frothed milk on top.
Flavored syrups open up all sorts of options for your pumpkin spice tea. Add in some coconut or vanilla syrup for simple, complimenting flavors, or you can give it a bit more richness with chocolate or caramel.
Pumpkin spice tea is a staple of American fall drinks. This spice blend has been around in American cuisine for centuries, and new variations are constantly popping up in the market for those who want to mix up their pumpkin spice. Brew your pumpkin spice tea or pick one up at your favorite coffee shop and enjoy the deliciously warm taste of autumn.