A store in California says PSLs will return in August. Can they be trusted?

By Mike Pomranz
August 04, 2020
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Courtesy of Starbucks

Since its first release back in 2003, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has served as a clear signpost that fall is almost here (despite what the weather may indicate). Meanwhile, if you’re wondering when the PSL itself is almost here, keep an eye out for this recurring signpost: a leaked date and a polite Starbucks denial.

The PSL’s devoted following has created an annual fervor for when the drink will return, and to keep fans on their toes, Starbucks has continued to shift the drink’s debut over the years. In fact, the latte’s official launch date has only been repeated once since 2011, according to Business Insider. But if you keep people guessing, they will guess, and almost every year, the return date seems to get leaked before Starbucks actually spills the beans. For example, last year, we published the rumored leak day of August 27 on August 15—and the leakers were right.

For 2020—to borrow an old horror movie trope—the leak appears to be coming from inside the house! Yesterday, an Instagram account for Starbucks of Yosemite & Tozer located in Madera, California, posted a pic of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce. The caption: “Who is excited for the Pumpkin Spice launch!! Coming August 28th!! Mark your calendars!!”

Did this Yosemite & Tozer branch go rogue and spill the beans (and pumpkin) on the PSL release date? Well, according to the store’s Instagram page (which, for what it’s worth, isn’t verified), they only opened about six weeks ago—meaning maybe they’re not up to speed on PSL protocol. It certainly can’t be easy for Starbucks corporate to keep about 15,000 American locations all in line!

Speaking of which, Starbucks headquarters wouldn’t confirm whether the date was accurate when reached for comment, simply saying, “Upon its return, the PSL will be available for fall fans all season long, and we’ll be sure to let you know when we have more details to share.” At the same time, however, Starbucks didn't offer any sort of denial.

So for now, August 28 would seem like the best unofficial guess. As mentioned above, last year PSLs returned on August 27, and in 2018, PSLs were back on August 28, so the timing feels right.

Regardless of when Pumpkin Spice Lattes return, needless to say, 2020 will be a unique year for the seasonal treat as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the U.S. So I also asked Starbucks if they had any plans to prevent any sort of PSL rush from undermining the company’s coronavirus efforts.

“Regarding safety measures put in place for when that day comes, Starbucks has now responsibly reopened over 90 percent our company operated stores across the U.S. under modified operations and hours. We have adapted safety protocols and our goal is to exceed the standards outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a safe experience, including heightened emphasis on cleaning and sanitizing protocols in our stores. Starbucks also requires customers to wear facial coverings while visiting all café locations, based on a growing number of government mandates requiring individuals to wear facial coverings while in public, and guidance from the CDC and other public health officials,” a spokesperson told me. “Customers have various options to order and pickup their favorite fall drinks, including ordering at the drive-thru, curbside pickup through the Starbucks app or placing an order for delivery through Starbucks Delivers.”

Finally, if you really want to stay socially-distanced—that is, not even go to a Starbucks shop at all—this morning, the brand announced its list of new and returning seasonal products arriving in grocery stores for home consumption: New this year are Starbucks Maple Pecan Flavored K-Cups and Roast & Ground Coffee, Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha Flavored Creamer, and two new flavors of Teavana Tea Sachets: Spiced Apple Cider and Lemon Ginger Bliss. The returning options are Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Flavored Creamer, Pumpkin Spice Flavored K-Cups and Roast & Ground Coffee, VIA Instant Pumpkin Spice Flavored Latte, and Starbucks Ready-to-Drink Iced Espresso Classics Pumpkin Spice Flavored Latte.