Salt Lake City's Pumpkin Spice Lattes

The mere opinions of an enthusiast, not a critic

Red Moose

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$3.25 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
Right from when your barista brings the mug to your seat, you can tell this is a more authentic pumpkin spice latte than most. You can see the pumpkin — real pumpkin — and all the spices in your steaming cup, and taste them as it cools down enough to drink. What the Red Moose PSL lacks in sweetness it makes up for in a rustic authenticity, which warms instead of energizes; it reserves that for a final kick of strong spices at the bottom of the cup.

And at the price tag, Red Moose offers the real thing at a relatively lower asking price.
THE LOCATION
The decor of Red Moose, at 1693 S. 900 East, matches the rustic quality of its pumpkin coffee with its cabin-like interior. The terrific wildlife photography that adorns the walls gives all the more reason to get your PSL to stay rather than go, besides admiring the brew’s orange color.
University of Utah, Westminster and Salt Lake Community College students also get 10 percent off their purchase with proof of student ID.

Salt Lake Roasting Co.

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$3.61 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
The barista lets you know upfront that this actually is not a pumpkin spice latte, but a latte with pumpkin pie-flavored syrup in it. It’s an honest and accurate assessment of a drink that’s much more charming in its appearance than its taste.

Given the option of cinnamon on top, I would accept and stir it in to improve the fall flavor. It mixes well into the light mix of coffee and milk, and the syrup added in is just subtle enough that the touch of spice slightly disguises the regrettable syrup taste and lightly accents the autumn pastry its meant to emulate. The improvement grows stronger as you dive deeper into the elegant glass cup.

In the seasonal hunt for the right PSL, the Salt Lake Roasting Co. asks you to dig a little.

THE LOCATION
Salt Lake Roasting Co., at 320 E. 400 South, is one of a few two-story coffee houses in the city. While its pumpkin coffee leaves something to be desired, the site is terrific and bears a visit. A stairway ascends from the middle of its cozy first level to a more sparse second, but one that has a view of the changing leafs in the trees that line 400 South, and downtown just beyond them.

Salt Lake Roasting Co. also has a small counter inside the downtown library, though I am not sure if they serve the pumpkin pie-flavored coffee.

Taste test: We’re falling for pumpkin spice lattes

Higher-ups at work saw this blog and decided it was worth featuring in the newspaper!

Einstein Bagels

$3.51 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
The same people who bake pumpkin bagels in the warm heart of Fall and serve them to you with pumpkin schmear as cool and light as the autumn breeze… make a kind of regrettable pumpkin spice latte.

Like other PSLs that share the lower ranks of the league, the Einstein Bagels’ cup tastes strongly of syrup, all the more so in the aftertaste, a reminder of a latte you would other soon forget.

But that’s alright. You journey to Einstein for what’s in the name, not the brews, right? You don’t need a PSL when there’s plenty of pumpkin in your fresh bagel and schmear. The treat is best accompanied by a cup of dark coffee anyway, which you get free refills of until you leave.

THE LOCATION
There are a couple Einstein Bagels in the city: the one on 481 E. South Temple on the edge of the Avenues, and the one on 240 S. 1300 East frequented by college students.

7-Eleven

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$1.07 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
This is, hands down, the best “cheap variety” pumpkin spice latte in Salt Lake City. Maybe America. Probably America.

Wait, sorry, just got a report from the United Nations. It’s the best cheap PSL in the world. Ban Ki-moon doodled a smiley face with “Oh thank Heaven!” in the margin.

The same friend who pointed me to the pumpkin mocha breve at Coffee Garden (the best gourmet PSL I’ve had) is the same person, if I remember correctly, who pointed me to this one. Frankly, she should be authoring this blog, but she’s probably busy, so here I am to tell you that you are hard pressed to find a better cheap PSL.

This PSL comes from a dispenser, so there’s no nuance and layers — but the one note it hits is light and upbeat. It’s sweet and strong on the pumpkin, but holds back enough so you never feel overwhelmed. If the 7-Eleven PSL is a celebration of the autumn, it’s a party that knows how to keep the music at just the right level so the neighbors won’t complain.

To sweeten the deal all the more, a small coffee at 7-Eleven is only $1 (plus seven cents tax) all October. This is the best PSL in its league at the best price in the city, as far as I’m aware. Oh thank Heaven is right.

THE LOCATION
A while back, I mapped every 7-Eleven I could in Salt Lake City. If you cannot find one…

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… then I don’t know what to tell you.

Cafe on 1st

$4.05 (16 oz.)

THE COFFEE
Order your pumpkin spice latte to stay, and not because Cafe on 1st is an inviting place. Look at that picture. The baristas makes one pretty latte, the kind layered with a frothy painting that inspires a photo and discourages a drink. Don’t worry, sip — you paid enough. Like a real leaf, the pattern rested gently and undisturbed on the warm depths no matter how low they dropped.

The beverage beneath does not quite match up to the artistry above, though that’s a high bar to meet. The pumpkin is not bold enough and the brew not dense enough to wrap you up and capture your attention, but they meld together well to form a quiet companion to something else — a newspaper or a good view of changing leaves. Sometimes pleasant company suited to the occasion is all you’re looking for.

THE LOCATION
Cafe on 1st gives you half the direction; follow 1st Avenue until you reach I Street, where it’s on the southwest corner. Seating is available inside and out, with chairs, couches and ample copies of The Daily Utah Chronicle beyond the door.

Coffee Break

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$4.37 (16 oz.)

THE COFFEE
You can easily see the pumpkin syrup bottle from across the counter when you’re at the register at Coffee Break, so in a way, the pumpkin spice latte comes as advertised. The taste hits first and hits strong to let you know what you are in for, before taking a step back to let the traditional latte ingredients play a more prominent role.

As with Caffe Ibis’ PSL, the add-in tastes as much like syrup as it does like pumpkin — except when it comes to the aftertaste, where the pumpkin fades away and leaves the syrup behind. Though the active taste of pumpkin syrup takes a backseat for much of the cup, the aftertaste effectively flavors the latte to taste almost medicinal. It’s a good strong cup of coffee, but not a great PSL.

THE LOCATION
Besides lots of tables in the front and on the patio, there are several big, comfortable couches in the back. But depending on whether you want a couch all to yourself, check your watch. There are two Coffee Breaks: the scarce Coffee Break at 430 E. 400 South when the sun is out and the Coffee Break at 430 E. 400 South that swells with people by starlight.

Side note: I was not bowled over by Coffee Break’s PSL, but if you ever get a chance to try its rose latte, do yourself a favor and order five in the biggest cups the baristas (who have always been very nice) can put it in.

Harmons (Caffe Ibis)

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Harmons: $3.47 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
Harmons (which serves Logan-based Caffe Ibis coffee) served up one frothy pumpkin spice latte, with the fun airy layer still riding the wave into the cup’s midsection. But much as a surprise as that was, it could not distract from the pumpkin syrup, emphasis on the syrup. The flavoring tasted as sweet as it did artificial, like a pumpkin-flavored candy that’s been melted down and poured into — but never really mixing with — the brew.

It was a disappointment, but after sampling the same PSL at Caffe Ibis’ Logan cafe, I would place blame for that on the ingredient, not the baristas.

THE LOCATION
As a routine Smith’s shopper, I cannot speak to whether all Harmons (Harmonses?) have a cafe, or just the impressive multi-story downtown Harmons at 135 E. 100 South. It looks grey and imposing from the street, but the other side of its glass doors is like walking through the wardrobe into a world of warm wooden hues. The cafe is on the north end of the second floor and faces Social Hall Avenue, a mostly hidden slice of Salt Lake City that includes an elevator you can see rise and fall through its glass shaft.

For what it’s worth, the Harmon’s cafe where I bought this PSL also featured ice cream, including a flavor labeled “pumpkin pie.” This might well merit a return trip.


In Logan: Roughly the same price, (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
I say “roughly the same price” because my PSL was one of three equally-sized lattes that my sister bought for a group of us after a hike. I was too exhausted and imagined feeling too awkward to ask the clerk how much my PSL cost, so I divided her $9-something expense by three.

Harmons was disappointing, but the Logan cafe’s PSL confirmed that the syrup is the culprit for an underwhelming latte, not either barista who made them. The same strong taste pervaded the PSL, which is heavy on the pumpkin syrup in its light brew — which proved a lot less frothy here.

THE LOCATION
Caffe Ibis is far from this blog’s focus on Salt Lake City, but if you find yourself in Cache County (and if you’re looking for beautiful fall colors, you could do a lot worse), it’s located at 52 Federal Avenue in historic downtown Logan.

Coffee Garden

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$4.97 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
I learned of this pumpkin coffee from a friend of mine, who described how she wanted to curl up inside it until springtime. She’s right.

The antithesis of Coffee Noir’s light and breezy pumpkin spice latte, Coffee Garden’s pumpkin mocha breve is a warm, rich offering that invites you in, wraps you up and asks you to stay a while, there’s a fresh pot of coffee on the stove and a pumpkin pie in the oven.

The breve offers you a dark chocolate treat with a tall glass of warm milk before it brings out the pumpkin pie and a hot mug of dark coffee. The chocolate, which takes a step back for the main course in the breve’s midsection, returns like a dessert for a rich encore at the end and leaves you with a delicious aftertaste long after the cup is dry. The thickness and richness of the whole brew slows you down to enjoy its layers as they unfold.

Besides, at almost $5 for 12 ounces, you might as well savor it and get your money’s worth.

THE LOCATION
You can find Coffee Garden as an extension of Eborn Books at 254 S. Main Street, but mind that it had closed by 6 p.m. when I tried to go there on Wednesday. The other location, a standalone and oft-packed cafe at 9th and 9th, is open much later.

COFFEE NOIR

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$3.22 (12 oz.)

THE COFFEE
Coffee Noir’s pumpkin spice latte fits this quiet neighborhood coffee house with its mild-mannered approach. The fall flavors are faint behind the light coffee and airy milk, announcing themselves in whispers amid the brew and only gaining the confidence to step forward in some of the last sips. Even the plain cup it’s served in fits its personality better than the big mug of some coffee shops or the distinguishable colors and logos of others.
 
If most pumpkin spice lattes are sweaters, warm, thick and enveloping, the Coffee Noir PSL is a light autumn breeze. Even at $3, the PSL is timid in its asking price (relatively speaking), though for some it might prove too much for what’s ultimately a mild cup of coffee with a blush of style.
 
But if you fill your autumn days with blanket-wrapped delves into Washington Irving or cozy evenings filled with the rich scents of baking pies, you may want, now and again, the brisk walks and rustling leaves in between.


THE LOCATION
Coffee Noir is the kind of corner coffee shop that’s marked by warm colors, a warm bakery and still warmer atmosphere; the kind of place where at least one man walked in with his own mug as he would his own kitchen. You can take a seat inside or out (with ample patio seating) on a quiet street amid old trees and older homes. At 200 S. 1040 East, Coffee Noir is just far enough from the 900 East divide between city and neighborhood that you could easily forget the urban bustle is only a couple blocks away.

Coffee Noir also offers fresh baked pastries (and yesterday’s for half-off), fruit and granola bars.