Early in 2003, Peter Dukes and a small team gathered in the “Liquid Lab,” a secure research and development space that was a cross between a chef’s kitchen and a scientist’s playground at the Starbucks Support Center.
The group had developed seasonal recipes for the Eggnog Latte and Peppermint Mocha and wanted to add a new drink to the fall lineup. Exploring ideas for an autumn-inspired espresso beverage, they sampled a forkful of pumpkin pie followed by a sip of hot espresso to tease out which pie flavors best complemented the coffee. They were off to a good start.
They spent the next three months prototyping the beverage, settling on a recipe that used pumpkin spice sauce with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg – handcrafted with espresso and steamed milk – and finished with whipped cream and a dash of pumpkin pie topping. We tested the drink in 100 stores, and in a week, we knew we had a winner.
In fall 2004, we rolled out the Pumpkin Spice Latte across our U.S. stores – and a new seasonal tradition was born.