Have you ever wondered if a pumpkin spice latte has caffeine? We're breaking down everything you need to know.
Do you love fall flavors and pumpkin spice season? I love it when fall favorites find their way back to the menu of coffee shops - it's the best time of year!
If you’re a fan of pumpkin pie spice, chances are you also love pumpkin spice coffee and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. It's easily one of the most popular seasonal drinks and for very good reason.
The fall season is one of the best for coffee lovers, but - does a pumpkin spice latte have caffeine? Let's take a look at this delicious drink in more detail.
What Is a Pumpkin Spice Latte?
The world famous pumpkin spice latte (or PSL) is a seasonal coffee drink.
It is made with traditional fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove along with steamed milk and espresso then sweetened with sugar and topped with whipped cream and a dusting of pumpkin pie spice.
You can usually get a hot pumpkin spice latte or an iced pumpkin spice latte.
This most famous of pumpkin drinks is generally associated with Starbucks due to the coffee chain originating the drink back in the fall of 2003.
The PSL and other fall drinks are typically available in early September and have expanded to include drinks like pumpkin cream cold brew among others.
The beloved pumpkin-flavored coffee is such a popular drink that it has also inspired similar drinks at other national coffee chains such as Dunkin' Donuts in addition to Starbucks stores.
Does a Pumpkin Spice Latte Have Caffeine?
Like other coffee beverages and espresso beverages, any hot latte (or the iced version) that is not specifically decaffeinated will contain caffeine.
The FDA recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, equal to roughly four or five cups of coffee.
This amount is not generally associated with dangerous or negative side effects.
A larger amount may cause nervousness, jitters, a racing heart, nausea, headaches, frequent urination, increased thirst, inability to sleep and chest pain.
However, some people may be sensitive to a much smaller amount of caffeine and experience these symptoms with far less consumption.
Age, genetics, medications, and other health issues can impact how your body responds to caffeine.
For comparison, a small latte has about 20 more milligrams of caffeine than a fruit flavored soda and 30 milligrams more than a cola.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Pumpkin Spice Latte?
The amount of caffeine in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte varies in each of their standard sizes. As one might expect, smaller drinks have less caffeine.
A Short, or 8 fl oz, cup of Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains 1 shot of espresso, which is equivalent to 75 mg of caffeine.
The next largest size, coined the Tall, is a 12 oz drink that contains the same one shot of espresso as a standard order.
Starbucks also serves up two larger sizes of lattes, the Grande (16 oz), and Venti (20 oz), and each of these are comprised of 2 shots of espresso, or 150 mg of caffeine per drink.
The nutritional breakdown in the standard recipe is as follows:
- Short Pumpkin Spice Latte - 210 calories / 25g sugar / 9g fat
- Tall Pumpkin Spice Latte - 300 calories / 38g sugar / 12g fat
- Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte - 390 calories / 50g sugar / 14g fat
- Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte - 470 calories / 63g sugar / 16g fat
Other ingredients include 2% milk, steamed milk foam, and a sweet whipped cream topping.
What Has More Caffeine Than a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?
If you’re looking for more caffeine when at the drive thru at Starbucks, think about ordering the Breakfast Blend, Nitro Cold Brew or Veranda Blend.
All three come pack an impressive 27 - 280mg per 12 oz (Tall) cup. Wow!
The largest serving of each of these drinks, Venti, contains slightly more than the daily recommended allowance for caffeine, coming in at 410 - 445mg.
These drinks are perfect for seasoned coffee drinkers who know what they’re getting into, or for someone needing to stay up (and up, and up…)
Is Caffeine Artificial?
Caffeine is actually derived from many naturally occurring sources.
For instance, dark chocolate contains up to 24mg, while milk chocolate has significantly less at 15mg maximum.
Semi-sweet chips contain slightly more than plain dark chocolate, while unsweetened cocoa powder contains about 8mg.
Coffee beans are sometimes consumed as a snack, especially when covered in chocolate.
These will give you a flavorful, quick burst of caffeine and ring in at 160mg of caffeine per 2 tbsp! Keep some handy for an on the go boost.
How Long Does Caffeine Stay In Your System?
Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 6 hours meaning that half of the amount that you consumed will be cleared out of your system in a 6 hour window.
The second half will take about 4 - 6 hours so you can expect caffeine to affect your body for around 12 hours overall on average.
This estimated average may not true for everyone. Some people will take longer to metabolize caffeine while others will find that it diminishes much sooner.
What Is Pumpkin Spice Seasoning Made Of?
If you love the flavor of pumpkin spice seasoning flavor, you may wonder what it is made of and if it contains real pumpkin.
Pumpkin spice seasoning itself is a spice blend that typically contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove.
The pumpkin spice sauce used to create a pumpkin spice latte is actually a pumpkin spice syrup that is made with sugar, condensed skim milk, pumpkin puree, fruit and vegetable juice for color, annatto, salt, and potassium sorbate, and natural flavors.
Why Are Pumpkin Spice Lattes So Good?
What we know as pumpkin spice boasts a rich flavor that is full bodied and delicious, making it a popular fall choice for flavor alone.
Many people who like warm undertones will appreciate the depth of flavor that spices like cinnamon, ginger, and clove provide.
Zesty nutmeg rounds it out, and added sweeteners and milk only serve to accent the natural flavors.
That said, pumpkin spice also contains hints of nostalgia making the pumpkin spice latte a “comfort food” of sorts.
Whether it reminds you of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving with your family, trick or treating as a kid, or cozying up under a blanket to watch movies, the pumpkin spice latte has become more than just a fall favorite drink. It has become an entire cultural experience that fans reach to every year.
How To Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte Healthier
If you’re a PSL fan but you’re trying to cut back on caffeine content, calories, fat, or sugar without compromising the flavor, here are a few suggestions.
There are a few simple shortcuts you can take when placing your order that will give you an option boasting fewer grams of fat and fewer grams of sugar.
- Use less syrup - Asking for less syrup will maintain the same flavor you’re looking for but also significantly cut the calories in your drink. For example, a Vente PSL gets six pumps of flavor so cutting it to three or four would make a large dent in your caloric intake.
- Hold the whipped cream - Removing the whipped cream from your pumpkin spice latte removes both vanilla syrup and heavy whipping cream. This accounts for 80 calories per order and a large amount of sugar, too.
- Substitute the milk - Replacing the 2% milk that comes in a latte with a plant-based milk such as soy, coconut, or almond milk will reduce the calories in your latte. There is an upcharge at most places for this.
- Size down - Choosing a smaller size will also cut back on calories. Where a Venti contains 470 calories, a Short is just 210 calories and the caffeine is also divided in half.
- Add pumpkin spice to something else - Adding flavoring to a low calorie drink will spare you the fuss of the cream, sugar, and other additives you’ll find in a latte. Add flavoring to plain black coffee, hot or cold, for a surprising treat.
Our Favorite Pumpkin Spice Treats
If you generally love all pumpkin spice treats as much as we do around here, don't miss out on our baked pumpkin spice donuts recipe - it's a hit!
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Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.Tags: Coffee, Pumpkin, Fall, FAQ