A Familiar Fall Flavor: The PSL Returns to Starbucks Japan

Pumpkin spice latte next to a pumpkin and cinnamon sticks

Source: Starbucks

Is it true? Could it be? I looked at the message on my phone. Words of hope that had so many times left me disappointed, “Starbucks Autumn is coming,” taunted me. Oh, look, another kabocha drink. Year after year, when Starbucks announces its autumn lineup, I hope that my beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte, aka PSL, will be there.

But every year my hopes are dashed amid the offerings of chestnut, pear, sweet potato, or kabocha, which is NOT “pumpkin” despite what the Japanese language has to say about it. But maybe, maybe this time the pumpkin peeking cheekily out from behind the warm, spiced beverage indicated something more.

When You Can Buy Pumpkin Spice Latte

Did I dare hope that finally, the PSL would be available in Japan?

I clicked through to the Starbucks Rewards ™ members’ area. Yes. Yes. YES! September 1st, the app promised, I would be reunited with one of my favorite seasonal comforts.

Well, “seasonal”. Here in Kyoto, September is still very much summer as far as I am concerned. So is approximately half of October. The autumn colours aren’t really even in full force until November or even December when the momiji (maple) turn shades of deep red and orange and the icho (ginkgo) turn bright yellow.

Though I have seen evidence that some trees are as eager for autumn as I am since their leaves are starting to change already. So while it might be a bit early, and hot outside, to go into full-blown pumpkinmania, the presence of the infamous PSL is a comforting herald of the coming autumn.

How to Order PSL

Holding a cup of pumpkin spice latte

Determined to get my hands on this limited-edition treat, I set my alarm for earlier than usual so that I could swing by the Starbucks at Karasuma Oike subway station on my way to work.

It is one of my favorite Starbucks in the city because you can access it from either side of the ticket gate, meaning I didn’t need to pay extra to access it.

A friend, and Starbucks barista, back in Canada recommended that I try the pumpkin spice latte with oat milk, so I took her advice while ordering my inaugural autumn latte. And why not, I added a pumpkin scone to my order, too.

PSL Happiness

That first sip was like magic. Sweet and creamy, with a hint of pumpkin and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. And hot. So hot. My forehead began to sweat in the morning mugginess. Maybe I should have gone for the iced version. But it is never as good cold. No, a PSL is best enjoyed hot, even if the temperature is in the high 20s Celsius. The oat milk was a good choice.

The pumpkin spice latte is only available until the end of October, or until supplies run out, which is usually what happens with seasonal drinks at Starbucks around here. It has been 16 years since the PSL last appeared on Starbucks Japan menus, so if you have never had a PSL and want to know what all the fuss is about, or if you’ve been missing a taste of home, get to a Starbucks ASAP. And try the oat milk!