“Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” – Woody Allen, “Deconstructing Harry”
Even though it’s not even really here yet, I love this time of year. The cooler temperatures that aren’t here yet. The scary movies on tv that aren’t here yet. The blown-out, over-the-top Halloween sections of stores that aren’t here yet.
One thing that is here, and has been for over a month already, is pumpkin spice.
And I love that too.
Despite a lot of recent Pumpkin Spice backlash that I’ve seen lately on the internet (“derp. white girls, derp.”) , Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin-flavored stuff has now wormed its way into my Fall tradition. I suspect it’s a part of a lot of people’s traditions, now.
I find this odd because Pumpkin Spice is a newish thing on the holiday scene, or at least it seems that way to me. I know I’d never heard of Pumpkin Spice Lattes (the most infamous butt of the slew of “Pumpkin Spice White Girl” jokes and memes) 10 years ago.
Regardless of where it came from, Pumpkin Spice appears to be sticking around for a while, as it seems to pop up in new products every year.
Pumpkin Spice is Tradition now.
And if tradition really is the illusion of permanence, then pumpkin spice may be the salve to smooth out our wounded lives.
Tradition gives us a sense of our own time and place. It’s our own marker on the long yardstick of our lives. Most importantly, to rephrase Woody Allen, it fools us into thinking that things will be like this forever.
We’ll have this job forever. We’ll have our house forever. Our family that is alive right now will be here next year to enjoy this tasty Pumpkin Spice coffee together again.
I know I’m putting a lot of weight on the shoulders of something so irrelevant as Pumpkin Spice coffee, but I do believe that it’s the things like tradition that keep us going.
My cousin once said to me, “I love it! You just go from one event to the next! Once this one’s over, boop! you’re on to the next one!”
And he’s totally right. I look forward to the traditions. One after the other.
The traditions take our mind off of going to work every day. Paying our bills. Possible World War 3.
Because even if WWIII breaks out, and Des Moines gets nuked, Target will roll out their Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice coffee next year, and all will be well.
We are willfully asleep, and tradition helps to put us there.
And I love it.
The other day I went to Target.
My wife goes to Target at least once a week. I do not ever go, unless it’s the holidays (September through December, basically).
I got there and was, admittedly, a little skeptical. The spot up front, the prime real estate, was still ocupado with “Back to School” bullshit. There wasn’t a corn made of candy anywhere in sight.
Determined, and trusting my internet friends not to lead me astray, I made my way to the coffee aisle.
I turned the corner and, jiminy crickets!, Pumpkin Spice had seemingly muscled out every other kind of coffee and was presenting its colors like a peacock in heat.
I’d never seen so much Pumpkin Spice coffee!
I couldn’t help myself, I started stuffing bags into my red basket. Tetrising them in, so they’d all fit, being careful to avoid the Starbucks and Dunkin “Yankee” Donuts brands.
I took them all home and, in a pumpkin spice feeding frenzy, opened every one of them.
“What have I done?” I asked myself, after my Pumpkin Spice-craving nasal passages had been filled and the beast inside was satiated.
“I never do this!”
And it’s true. One of my pet peeves is when my wife, or a guest, opens a new bag of coffee when the old one isn’t finished yet. I don’t really know why. Can coffee even get stale? Whatever. There’s something good in there that I don’t want let out until it’s time.
Only one thing to do.
DRINK THEM ALL.
Or, ya know, at least try them all.
And at least I can parlay this into a blogpost. So, here they are, IN ORDER from my least favorite, to my favorite, the coffees I blew my checking account on that day:
#6. Archer Farms Pecan Pie
I know I already tweeted this but, ya know that chemical taste that flavored coffee that is trying to be really sweet has? This has it in spades.
It’s really a shame, because I love Pecan Pie, but things that are irl really sweet just really shouldn’t be forced into being a coffee flavor. Pumpkin Spice works because it’s a spice.
I don’t know how flavored coffee is made, but I assume they just throw some syrup on the beans when they roast them. They probably also expect you to put some creamer in there with it, to smooth out the Toxic Avenger taste, but as I’ve said countless times before, I don’t think you should have to add anything to make it edible. It should be good on its own.
If you can’t drink Scotch straight, without ice or soda, it’s not good Scotch. Period. Sure, adding the ice or soda might be how you prefer to drink it, but it should also be able to stand on its own.
Same principle here. This stuff will probably get pushed to the back of the coffee shelf in our pantry, reserved for that coming day when I wake up, look in the pantry, and think, “Shit! We’re out of coffee! I knew I shoulda gone to the store yesterday! Wait. Here’s this stuff. Fuck it.”
#5. Archer Farms Autumn Roast
This is an unflavored coffee. I like it because it lets people who aren’t into flavored coffee (me, outside of the holidays) get in on the seasonal fun.
I really don’t know what else to say about it, and I guess that’s why it’s next to the bottom of the list. It’s good, but that’s it.
If you just want a good, solid coffee that has the word “Autumn” on the package, pick this up, but like my friend Doug told a customer at his coffee shop once, “It’s just coffee, man!!!”
#4. Stud Muffin Pumpkin Spice
This one is a good entry into the Pumpkin Spice pantheon.
I don’t know if it’s the power of suggestion or what, but this one definitely has a sort of “muffin-y” taste to it. It’s not very sweet, and has a sort of bran flavor to it. The pumpkin spice is definitely in there, but not overpowering at all.
I think I prefer my Pumpkin Spice to be strong and robust. This is the perfect solution for someone who likes pumpkin spice, but doesn’t want it causing a ruckus in their mouth.
And it might make you poop. Even more so than other non-bran coffees.
#3. Apple of My Eye
Before Pumpkin Spice wrestled away the reins, Apple was in firm control of the Fall flavor palette.
Bobbing for apples.
Other apple things.
This was the flavorface of Fall and, to be honest, it’s nice to see apple trying to make a comeback as the current underdog.
I know I said in my last post, “Fuck Apples”, and I still mean it, but Pumpkin Spice may be getting a little big for its britches and it’s always just nice to see someone challenge the current undisputed champ.
Apple of My Eye Apple Crisp coffee is perfect. I’m not lying. The only reason it isn’t number one is because, unfortunately, I like pumpkin more than apple (I think it’s the jack-o-lantern connection, honestly).
It’s a lighter, unassuming roast that has a just the right touch of apple flavoring. It tastes like Fall. It tastes warm and inviting, but not overbearing. It be all like, “Come on in here and have a sit and chat with your dad in front of the fireplace.” While a lot of flavored coffees be more like, “TASTE ME. DO IT NOW!!!! FUCK YOU, THIS IS WHAT I TASTE LIKE.”
Know what I mean?
#2. Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice
This is my go-to pumpkin spice coffee. It is exactly what you want in a pumpkin spice coffee, and isn’t $10/bag like the Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks brands.
And as a bonus, they sell it in big bags. Stock up now, so you can have an October Sunday sometime next May.
In general, I like the Archer Farms/Target brand. They offer high-end shit at beer prices, or something like that. I’ve had a ton of coffee this morning. My head is audibly buzzing. My synapses are firing too fast for their own good. I don’t think they can see where they’re going.
The Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice has a terrific aroma in the bag, but smells even better when brewing. It’s a strong pumpkin spice flavor/aroma without that chemical “beat you over the head” thing.
My main experience with “flavored” stuff is with pipe tobacco. In the pipe tobacco world, heavy toppings and flavors are usually used to mask the flavor of cheap tobacco. With this Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice, it seems like they used good coffee, despite it being a lighter roast. There’s not any of that cheap coffee funky bitterness hiding in there behind the spice, in other words.
#1. Sweetie Pie Pumpkin Pie
Holy shit. This stuff is flippin’ amazing. I really don’t know how they did it, but it does taste like pumpkin pie.
As I noted in my review of the Pumpkin Spice Shave Stick, there is a marked difference between “pumpkin spice” and “pumpkin pie” scents and flavors. Don’t believe me? Go get a shaker of pumpkin spice and shake it out on your tongue.
There are notes of graham cracker in here, for chrissakes! How did they do that bullmess?
It’s sweet, but not cloying. It’s piquant, but not too overpoweringly spicy.
Go get some. It rules. It smells amazing, tastes like pumpkin pie, and it’ll turn your brain into a misinformation superhighway.
So that’s it. The coffees I got that fateful day in my local SuperTarget, reviewed.
– Tradition makes us feel good.
– For better or worse, pumpkin spice has made its way into our lexicon of seasonal flavors
– Apple is ok too
– PUMPKIN PIE. CAFFEINE. helluva combo.