A Showdown: Pumpkin Spice Latte VS Peppermint Mocha. Which One Is Actually Better?

It’s like choosing a favorite child. How do you compare the two most popular seasonal Starbucks drinks of all time?

By Anna Hartman2 min read
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One is decidedly full of warming spices and initiates the nostalgia you feel when the leaves are changing and the holiday season is creeping up just around the corner. The other is a rich palate cleanser that instantly transports you to an ice-skating rink with twinkle lights overhead and the closing chapter of the year. We’re here to have the ultimate showdown: pumpkin spice vs peppermint mocha. Both well-known, overpriced… and, well, admittedly basic. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ah, the infamous PSL. The go-to reference when anyone is trying to insult you for acting “basic.” As with all things that are ridiculed for being popular or trendy however, there is a reason behind the pumpkin spice latte’s rise to fame. With hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, the pumpkin flavor isn’t overpowering, but it still gives you that feeling of autumn and the changing of seasons. Many people associate pumpkin spice with cool, crisp weather, and holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, so understandably it’s beloved for those reasons. 

Now, I don’t know if the pumpkin spice latte has gone downhill over time (it has been 19 years since Starbucks first introduced it). Or, perhaps our palates are just becoming more mature as newer, more creative variations are becoming available, or the novelty of the once-revolutionary coffee has finally worn off. In any case, the PSL just doesn’t do it for me anymore. And it seems that a lot of people feel the same way. 

Meg Dowell with Fansided reports that, “According to Apester, 48 percent of American customers surveyed want nothing to do with the Pumpkin Spice Latte. If it went away, they wouldn’t miss it. Or they really, really wish it didn’t exist.” Apparently, all of this hate is coming from consumers who complain that Starbucks doesn’t even include real pumpkin in their recipe, in addition to the crazy sweet taste with 50 grams of sugar in a grande. 

Peppermint Mocha

Which brings us to the PSL’s sibling rival: the peppermint mocha. While you could argue that these two drinks are vastly different and thus would appeal to different taste preferences and palates, they do remain Starbucks' most popular seasonal beverages. As consumers close the door on the PSL post-spooky season, their cup holders are filled once again with the iconic red cup housing the peppermint mocha. 

The peppermint mocha latte can be best described as a minty hot chocolate. It’s essentially the adult version of your childhood favorite. When you replace the watered down powdered chocolate and freeze-dried marshmallows version you used to get after playing in the snow until your hands were nearly frost-bitten with a decadent and complex hot chocolate with an added boost of caffeine, it’s undeniable that people will fall in love. Starbucks is essentially marketing nostalgia here. 

As long as you're a fan of peppermint, this drink never disappoints, unlike the pumpkin spice latte, which can go terribly wrong with one misstep by a distracted barista. It also has a higher caffeine content with 175 mg of caffeine versus the 150 mg of caffeine that the pumpkin spice latte boasts, which is a bonus for anyone who needs an afternoon energy boost. 

Closing Thoughts

While the peppermint mocha will set you back about 440 calories with 54 grams of sugar, we still see it as the clear winner here. We certainly wouldn’t recommend shelling out $6 and setting yourself back healthwise for a fancy Starbucks concoction day after day, but if you’re going to indulge in a sugary coffee from time to time, the peppermint mocha is the way to go. So, grab your minty adult hot cocoa, turn up the Mariah Carey Christmas tunes, and chuck your PSL in the trash because peppermint mocha has officially taken first place as our favorite holiday drink!

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