As someone who spent her teenage years working as a barista in a Starbucks in New York City, there was a surefire way to tell when the weather was cooling down. Every autumn, Starbucks would send a viscous orange 'pumpkin spice' flavoured syrup into its stores, to be added to coffees. And thus the pumpkin spice latte was born.
The PSL, as it's now known, was a Starbucks invention, but now every American fast-coffee outlet from Dunkin' Donuts to McDonald's to Krispy Kreme has a version. In the northern hemisphere, its cinnamon and ginger flavours herald the advent of autumn.
Now 7-Eleven is launching a frozen version in Slurpee form for summer, and we have some concerns. Firstly, pumpkin spice lattes are meant to emulate the flavour of pumpkin pie, traditionally served at Thanksgiving, which mixes the earthy, creamy sweetness of pumpkin with the 'gingerbread spices' of nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cinnamon (not to be confused with the gingerbread latte, however, which is an entirely different Starbucks drink). Those all meld with bitter, rich coffee and milk to make a warming, sweet beverage evocative of the most emblematic dessert of the most emblematic American holiday. Here in Australia, we have neither pumpkin pie (which is made of Jack-o-lantern pumpkin, not what Australians would call pumpkin) nor Thanksgiving. Can a pumpkin spice latte work without a Proustian association with sitting down at a laden Thanksgiving table?
Secondly, the PSL works because it melds the flavours of the warming spices with milk and coffee, which are particularly receptive to toppings like cinnamon. Without the coffee and milk elements, it seems like you've got a frozen orange cinnamon beverage. Unless 7-Eleven is putting a coffee flavour into its pumpkin spice Slurpee, a crucial component is missing. And even if the coffee is present, is the milk? Is it a dairy Slurpee?
This brings us to the largest concern. The PSL works in the northern hemisphere because it heralds the advent of autumn, when everyone wants to cup warming beverages in their hands. On a 30-degree Australian spring day, are the warming spices of ginger and cinnamon really what you crave?
Still, if it's your cup of, er, half-frozen ice, the pumpkin spice latte Slurpee will make its debut in Australian 7-Eleven stores from October 15. It is due to coincide with Halloween and is said to last for a limited time. If you want to get your sweaty antipodean hands on it, you better be quick.