It’s official: pumpkin spice latte season is in full swing.
Starbucks’ annual, revenue-raking classic, the pumpkin spice latte, debuted on Sept. 5. Later in the month, the company released its fall 2017 beverage, the maple pecan latte.
Forbes reported that Starbucks will make some $100 million, give or take, on PSL sales alone. As drive-thru lines wrap around to the Jackson Avenue entrance at the Oxford, Mississippi Starbucks, one can’t help but wonder: what about the others?
For many Oxford residents and coffee enthusiasts, Cups, an Espresso Cafe, and Heartbreak Coffee in Water Valley hold special places in their hearts. But can these shops keep up with the fall flavors craze that Starbucks has created? For Cups, their response to the competition that sits almost directly across the street is the Pumpkin White Mocha. Because “some things just go together like white chocolate and pumpkin spice.”
Lee Bowie, co-owner of Cups, noted that he does not always see the sales figures change, but that he does notice a difference in people’s orders.
“When we get the seasonal coffees in, they kind of become the focus,” Bowie said. “You know you can get Snickerdoodle, Southern Pecan year-round, but the speciality drinks are popular because people know you can only get them for a certain number of weeks.”
Bowie also acknowledged that being located in a college town helps small coffee shops foster their unique atmosphere more than chain coffee shops.
“People who want to have the fun drinks will come in here and see their friends, study, just take their time,” Bowie said. “I don’t know that they really have that kind of space or atmosphere,”
For the most part, though, Bowie expressed he was not concerned about the competition from large chains such as Starbucks.
“Really, we just believe our coffee is better,” he said. “But they do have a drive-thru, so if someone’s in a hurry, they might go there.”
Another aspect of Oxford’s being the home to Ole Miss that allows the seasonal drinks to thrive is their proximity to midterm exams.
“During that time of year, students are going through midterms and really start buckling down,” Bowie said.
The proximity of Cups and Starbucks is not the only mirror relationship between the two shops. Matching Starbucks’ Maple Pecan Latte is Cups’ Vermont Maple Nut blend. Mallory Lehenbauer, a University of Mississippi graduate who has since relocated to Austin, Texas, attests to the blend’s unique flavor.
Just remembered the Vermont Maple Nut coffee at @cupsofoxford and I must buy several bags next time in Oxford. ☕️
— Mallory Lehenbauer (@helloitalkalot) October 19, 2017
Heartbreak Coffee, the Water Valley-based roastery that will supply Uptown Coffee (formerly known as High Point Coffee), is also attune to people’s desire for warmth and spice with their Holiday Spiced Cold Brew.
NEW HOLIDAY SPICED COLD BREW —� made with organic milk, cream, house made mulling spices simple syrup and our cold brew! A little sweet, a little spicy, a little creamy and a whole lotta good!
Gretchen Williams, Heartbreak Coffee’s triple-threat owner, roaster and barista, noted that their holiday drink brings a unique blend of flavors by marrying cold brew coffee with seasonal drinks, which are typically served hot. The fall favorite also has notes of mulling spices, rarely found in the pumpkin spice culture.
“As far as I know, no one else has mulling spices simple syrup,” Williams said. “So the flavors are unique and it’s also house-made. Nothing prepackaged.”
Regardless where consumers purchase their seasonal drinks, Bowie recognizes that coffee is a feel-good drink, with its purpose being very real and human.
“People just like to try things that are festive,” Bowie said, “There are some times you just want a medium roast, but other times you want something that’ll make you smile.”