Whether you consider yourself a die-hard Pumpkin Spice Latte fan and are quick to double-tap everything @therealpsl posts on Instagram, or proudly stand against anything remotely related to pumpkins, Starbucks’ popular seasonal beverage has undeniably become fall’s official staple.
While the flavor may be overbearing due to its omnipresence in every food imaginable (we see you, pumpkin spice cream cheese), the drink continues to reign supreme at Starbucks locations throughout the United States — and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
But what’s the big deal? What make PSLs so great? As an avid tea drinker, I’ve never experienced the greatness (?) that is the Pumpkin Spice Latte (side note: I did once ask for a pumpkin spice tea latte, but immediately regretted the decision after two sips), and have regularly heard mixed reviews from family and friends — many of whom have previously worked at Starbucks during peak PSL season.
Seriously, it’s like a rite of passage for these folks, who not only graciously offered personal tidbits about working at the Mecca for pumpkin spice — on average, each store sells about 1,000 PSLs per week — but were also open about the pumpkin-spice crazed customers they would encounter on an almost daily basis.
Keep scrolling to find out what five former (and two current) baristas really think about the buzzy beverage’s flavor and its level of cult status.
The Hype Is Still Building
“[Pumpkin Spice Latte season] has been getting crazier every passing year,” says Milton, a current Starbucks employee in Queens, New York. “It’s my favorite drink. It’s a little bit weaker this year but still awesome.”
Pass on the Pumpkin
“Pumpkin Spice Lattes wouldn’t succeed year-round because the taste is overbearing. It tastes too artificial,” Carla, a former barista (2010-2011) tells PEOPLE. “I like pumpkin spice, but I wouldn’t order it. I’m not a fan of the after-taste.”
The Pumpkin Spice Sauce Is Serious Business
“I’ve had a customer flip out when we ran out of the special sauce. It. Was. Serious,” Ashlyee, a former California barista (2010-2011) recalls. “I love Starbucks, but honestly I’m kind of creeped out by how orange the sauce was when I worked there. It didn’t seem natural.”
“I remember when a customer wanted to buy several Pumpkin Spice syrups, but we couldn’t sell them to her,” Maria, a former Starbucks employee from Queens, New York, tells PEOPLE. “She got so mad that she asked to speak to a manager. In the end the manager calmed her down and explained that we’re not allowed to sell the syrup to customers.”
No Pumpkin Please
“The only time to drink anything pumpkin is in the fall,” says Steven, a former N.Y.C. Starbucks barista. “I drink White Mocha and hate anything pumpkin.”
The Start of Fall Isn’t Joyful
“All baristas roll their eyes when it is the end of August and we see the nauseating syrup sitting on our shelves waiting for its ‘early’ release date,” says N.Y.C.-based Bianca, who has worked as a barista for four years and considers the Cinnamon Dolce Latte to be one of her favorite drinks. “I am not a fan. I never have been. Taste is a mixture of bitter and too sweet all at once. The pumpkin is a thick syrup that ends up taking one-quarter of the space in a drink as we build it.”
There’s Not One Type of PSL Order
“Some people are conscious of their health so the orders vary from cup to cup. Orders sound like this around PSL season: ‘non-fat, but please whip cream’ or ‘only half a pump of the artificial sweetener,’ ” says Mustafizur, who has worked as a barista in Brooklyn, New York, for four years. “And some [customers] love more of everything, as much pumpkin that can fit in a cup they’ll take it.”