Column: These Boston cafés have pumpkin spice and everything nice for the fall season


Sarah Popeck

Falling leaves and cooler weather herald in autumn each year — and for Boston cafés, autumn brings a new slate of pumpkin-spiced drinks and goods. Pictured here, Tatte offers gluten friendly tea cakes this season.

Sarah Popeck, news correspondent

Fall is in the air, which means it’s time for new seasonal flavors —  and students’ desperate hunt for their daily fix of a pumpkin spice latte, or PSL for short.

Starbucks coined the drink in 2003, but pumpkin spice has been around for more than a century. The classic blend includes a combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves — flavors that students can find around the city at these coffee staples.

At Tatte on Huntington Avenue, the focus is on desserts. The Boston-based chain features a classic pumpkin pecan pie and a pumpkin pound cake, channeling the true iconic flavors of the season. Tatte’s tea cakes are offered in a pumpkin-iced praline flavor, along with roasted strawberry, and both options are gluten friendly. Tatte rolled out a starting lineup for its Christmas options with a gingerbread spiced loaf to spread their excitement for the holidays. The café chain also offers its own version of the PSL — it just wouldn’t be fall without a classic PSL.

Haunting every other block in Boston, local favorite Dunkin’ takes the crown for the most beverage options. Four signature drinks are featured this fall: a pumpkin spice signature latte, a pumpkin chai latte, a nutty pumpkin coffee and a pumpkin cream cold brew. For students, a pumpkin donut and muffin make a good pair with a drink before an 8 a.m. class. The Dunkin’ PSL in particular felt fit for a walk through the fall foliage in the Boston Common. Moreover, the flavor additions feel less saturated than in drinks from longtime PSL heavyweight Starbucks, where you can taste the artificiality of the syrup in the drink.Trek over to Pavement Coffeehouse for three more drinks: a PSL, a maple latte and a cinnamon fig latte, a treat not offered by its competitors. Drop by Pavement on any brisk, gloomy day, and you’ll find the baristas brewing up one PSL —  which features a unique hint of cardamom — after another.

Last but certainly not least, it would not be fall without the cliché PSL from Starbucks that still has students’ hearts as is the company’s most popular seasonal flavor. Since 2003, Starbucks has sold over 600 million PSLs. The chain’s newer apple crisp series of drinks made a return for another year with a hint of cinnamon sprinkled on top of each cup for the full fall effect. In the bakery box, Starbucks’ crafted pumpkin and pepita loaf and pumpkin cream cheese muffin are unique to the brand, yet classic.

At the end of a long pumpkin spice-filled journey through Boston that pitted the city’s coffee spots against each other, the hot Dunkin’ PSL emerged at the top. It felt the most authentic and cozy of the city’s seasonal drinks, radiating the energy of fall without being too overpowering. Regardless, there is still plenty of time and many cooler days ahead in the season for students to get to all four places and pick their own autumn favorites.