Fall is a magical season. The air is crisp, the leaves change colors, and big knit scarves make their appearance once again. Except in San Diego, where we reached the 100 degree mark in late October. I know, Ugh. So how do I chase that fall feeling in San Diego? With pumpkin spice lattes (on ice) of course.
And I’m not talking about syrupy sweet Starbucks PSLs. I’m talking a perfect balance of coffee, pumpkin, and the right mix of spices. I hit the streets to hunt down the top 10 San Diego Pumpkin Spice Lattes and ranked them for your autumnal drinking pleasure. Read on to find out where to find the best pumpkin spice latte in San Diego.
San Diego Pumpkin Spice Lattes Ranked
No thank you. I’ll give Starbucks the nod for driving the PSL craze, but their flavored drinks are far too sweet for me. There are just so many amazing coffee shops in San Diego serving pumpkin spice lattes right now that it’s a shame to not expand past this chain.
Point Loma, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and more.
I love Better Buzz, the interior of each of their locations is adorable. White subway tiles, marquee letters lit up, and plenty of signs saying “Life’s Better Buzzed.” It’s a perfect place to work when the place isn’t too busy. But, I was underwhelmed by their Pumpkin Spice Latte. It was on the milkier side with an almost undetectable pumpkin flavor.
8. Holy Matcha
I know, I know this one isn’t actually coffee. But I’m a huge Holy Matcha fan so I’m throwing it in the mix. Matcha is a strong flavor, so you’ll have to search your tastebuds for the hint of pumpkin at the end. It may not be New England in the Fall, but it certainly is Fall in Southern California.
Mostra is open only on select days so it takes some real planning to visit their coffee roasting headquarters. Their seasonal special is called the Jack-O-Latte and includes Fortissimo espresso, real pumpkin, warming spices, whipped cream and graham cracker. Very artisanal. The moment you take a sip, the pumpkin comes in as the main kicker with bitter coffee coming in right behind. If you’re afraid of sweet PSLs, then give this one a try.
6. Duet Coffee
Duet is a chill little coffee shop right by SDSU and a great place to get work done. I sipped this PSL while answering emails and it kept me going. This pumpkin spice latte is not overpowering. It’s creamy with a good base of nutmeg that evens out as you drink it.
5. S3 Coffee
S3 Coffee is an Instagram dream. Seriously, they’ve got the cutest rainbow lattes and their pink neon sign game is on point. They’ve got a few pumpkin flavor drinks to try from including a pumpkin chai that my friend Lauren really enjoyed. But this is a hunt focused on San Diego pumpkin spice lattes, so I ordered that.
The S3 PSL is sweet, with a full flavoring of pumpkin spices. Nutmeg and clove really show up, whereas the coffee taste is hidden in all the sweetness. So if you want a sweet pumpkin spice latte that isn’t too intense, try this one.
What list of coffee shops in San Diego isn’t complete without mention of Communal Coffee? The place is an aesthetic gem full of coffee and flowers. I visited while their Halloween Hoop-la event was in full swing. The place was packed with some hip costumes. I mean, one barista was dressed up like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Communal Coffee’s pumpkin spice latte is full and smooth. There’s a very delicate pumpkin taste at the end and it’s not too sweet. It pairs perfectly with their pumpkin bread!
Now I only had a sip of my friend’s drink, but Moniker General’s pumpkin spice latte was amazing. I would have drunk a whole 16 oz. cup had it not been for the full day of coffee drinking at Creative Mornings and Moniker Commons. I am but one woman. This PSL nails the pumpkin spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove steal center stage with the milky coffee coming in second.
2. Dark Horse
Golden Hill, Normal Heights, North Park and more.
Dark Horse roasts some damn good coffee. So it’s not surprising that the coffee in their pumpkin spice latte shines through. They make their pumpkin puree in house and everything’s all natural (unlike Starbucks.) Altogether, it’s not too sweet and has an even pumpkin flavor throughout that’s delicious.
Holsem is hands down my favorite of all the San Diego pumpkin spice lattes. They know how to balance the pumpkin spice coffee trinity (coffee, milk, and pumpkin flavorings) to a T. Not only is it well balanced, but Holsem’s PSL features real pumpkin puree and a hint of maple along with the pumpkin pie spices. I give it 10 out of 10 pumpkins.
Now, pumpkin lovers, take this list and explore all the San Diego pumpkin spice lattes out there. If you know a PSL I haven’t included on the list, but think should be included, let me know and maybe we can grab them together!