Things that damn-well shouldn’t be pumpkin spice

As counterculture Portland as you think you want to be, it’s pumpkin-freakin-spice season.

Washington Post wrote a great expose on why pumpkin spice became America’s go-to fall flavor. The mix of cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes dried pumpkin is not so much the draw as is its “limited time offer” marketing strategy.

Given that the beginning of fall when the smell of burning firewood wafts down neighborhood streets and trees turn orange and red is so nostalgic, it’s not surprising that food chemists have jumped on the opportunity to market that cozy feeling.

But I’ll admit I’ve been scarred. In November 2012, I was an excited newbie to the Starbucks workforce, and I got a job at 242nd and Burnside St. in Gresham. “Cool!” I thought. “I’ll be a coffee snob in no time!”

But it was fall, and ultra-customized Pumpkin Spice lattes were at the top of every regular’s list. I spent my first several weeks of training pumping thick orange gloop into paper cups. It’s hard work, and no small feat to rinse those pinhole-sized spouts until the water runs clear.

Starbucks’ iconic cozy autumn introduction doesn’t bother me too much, however, even as little as I like the taste. It’s just reality.

Here is, I hope, a less polarizing list of everything pumpkin spice product I think, and you should also think, ought to be burned.

Pumpkin coffee

Pumpkin-infused coffee beans should never have happened.

If hazelnut or vanilla-infused beans aren’t bad enough, think of throwing a bunch of scratch-and-sniff pumpkin stickers into a bag of beans and letting it all corrode until next Thanksgiving.

My grandma once cooked some up for me. She does not drink coffee, but she had a Mr. Coffee that hadn’t been touched in months and some years-old pumpkin spice-infused beans she got on sale at Albertson’s. She filled the filter with perhaps a teaspoon of grounds for four cups of water.

It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know. But the stale scented-pinecone aroma, off-putting canned pumpkin taste, and afterthought of caffeine gave me, of course, a migraine.

Pumpkin Hershey’s Kisses

My roommate Jessica tried some in Vegas.

She said, “They tasted like fall, like spicy, like a spice with, like, chocolate. A creamy, like, pumpkin spice latte. But, I don’t know, with a little more chocolatey flavor.” She hesitated, then added, “It was really sweet. I definitely couldn’t eat more than, like, two of them.”

No candy should be that complicated to describe, and Kisses are meant to be eaten by the handful. Case closed.

Pumpkin Spice Werther’s Original Caramels

Like those mocha-flavored ones, the old lady at that Baptist Church from your childhood offers you from her purse, except worse.

Pumpkin spice tea

For when you want your microwaved water to taste like the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie dessert plate you rinsed in the sink. Don’t listen to the tea companies that tell you it’s “reminiscent” of hot pumpkin bread. That’s what Yankee Candle’s Witches’ Brew is for, and anyway you won’t taste it without the carbs.

Pumpkin spice hand soap/body spray/air freshener

It’s not “limited time only” if it lasts all year because the syrupy scent plugs up your smell receptors after three uses. Also, If you really don’t want to ruin pumpkin spice for the non-fanatics, don’t try to mask your post-breakfast dump with artificial Thanksgiving dessert. It’s not pretty.

Pumpkin spice food spray

It’s organic, non-GMO, and kosher! Amazon says, “Awaken your breakfast. Spice up your baking.” The same company sells cinnamon spray-on spice and spray-on gingerbread. Leave it to Penzey’s to sell pumpkin pie spice to real bakers. I could see this waiting on the cooking oil shelf for a long, long time.


The Durex pumpkin spice condom was a hoax. But, fans, don’t worry: a little pumpkin spice food spray should do the trick.