During the last week of August, when the temperatures in New York City reached nearly 90 degrees and, here in Atlanta, they didn’t drop below 95, Starbucks rolled out its fall beverages. This year, customers were greeted with a surprise: In addition to the now-infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL, for short), consumers could purchase a new, different gourd-infused beverage: something smoother, more refreshing and—most importantly—chilled, the perfect seasonal drink for a world on fire.
The PSL has long been associated with “basic”-ness, but for when you only want to be sort of basic, there’s the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, the new aforementioned frosty drink. For the sake of time, we’ll just call it PCCB. It’s the first new pumpkin drink Starbucks has launched since introducing the PSL in 2003, per USA Today.
Unlike the PSL, the PCCB isn’t too sweet. Smooth, rich cold brew topped with a cloud of frothy, plushy cold foam and a smattering of nutmeg, the PCCB is the coffee-lover’s cold beverage. I don’t know why it’s so perfect, but I would like to inject it into my veins, causing all my white blood cells to become little pumpkin-shaped coffee beans. I have purchased this damn drink an embarrassing, probably unspeakable number of times since early September, because it’s the perfect balance between a treat-yo-self pick-me-up and an actual caffeine boost, which we all know is the most important thing anyways. Also, it’s been a hot-as-hell fall so far—but I still want something festive, dammit.
What makes this drink so special is the cold foam, a relatively new element that Starbucks rolled out this year for many of its iced beverages, which baristas make by churning low-fat milk in a special big-bladed blender. According to Brenna Houck at Eater Detroit, “There are now at least 12 different iterations of cold brew on Starbucks’ menu, including cold brew with cold foam, cold brew with cream cold foam, nitro cold brew with sweet cream, nitro cold brew with cascara cold foam, cold brew with cascara cold foam, and last but not least, pumpkin cream cold brew.”
I have tasted many iterations of Starbucks’s flavored iced coffees in my day, but I can confidently say the PCCB sticks the landing the best. If you’re a fan of their tapped nitro cold brew, a denser cold-brewed coffee with more caffeine, you can adjust your PCCB order to be made with that instead of the regular cold brew. However, the nitro brew isn’t served with ice. While the lack of melting cubes makes for a richer sip, the PCCB doesn’t taste too great lukewarm. You’ve been warned.
Unlike most of Starbucks’ iced beverages, the PCCB is served with a protective, straw-less lid (aka a “sippy-cup” lid), which the company rolled out in select regions earlier this year as a first step in working to eliminate plastic straws in their stores. However, if you dive in foam-first without stirring in the cream, which evades the coffee like oil from vinegar, the cold brew will likely struggle to trickle through. So I recommend using a stirrer to incorporate the foam, or bring your own reusable straw.
If you’ve been hesitant to participate in the capitalist, money-grabbing bullshit operation that is Starbucks holiday drinks, I totally understand. This is not a call to throw away the punch-card from your local shop and open a Starbucks Rewards account. Please, for the love of local business and all that is good, keep spending your money at the shop around the corner. But, if you find yourself in the airport or mall or what have you, and you’re craving something sweet (but not too sweet) with just the right amount of caffeine, go for the PCCB. If loving this take on a classically “basic” drink is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.