I just love fall, don’t you? The air is crisp, the leaves are blowing their fantastic colors in the air or crunching under our feet, spooky decorations to frighten us on Halloween start appearing, and so do the pumpkins. First you start seeing the pumpkins at the grocery store, then pumpkin spice scents start to fill the candle shops and in body cremes, and finally you notice all the coffee shops starting to sell some kind of autumn spice drink.
One coffee house in particular, Starbucks, is well known for its Pumpkin Spice Latte. This drink is like crack to people, it’s really incredible. I’ve never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte, though I’ve been told I’m missing out on some seriously good shit. And even though I’ve never had one, I’ve imagined that it’s a sweet taste of autumn. At least, that’s how its been described to me. So I wondered, is it vegan?
To get the answer I had to go to the Starbucks website to see what it says. Have you ever been to the Starbucks website? It has a nutritional calculator on it that allows you to design your drink to get the “beverage detail”. Which, I guess, is kinda cool. So, I plugged in a tall pumpkin spice latte made with soymilk and no whip. Well, it has 230 calories – 30 of which come from fat, 41 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein. It also has 37 grams of sugar and 150 milligrams of sodium. So I thought to myself, it’s not a drink I’d have often – but it’s something I could have as a treat every once in awhile. But I wanted to see what was in it. So I started searching for an ingredient list.
And I searched and searched. You know what I found? Starbucks doesn’t list the ingredients of their products on their website. I find that absolutely insane. How can you not post the ingredients for the general public to look up? Are we just supposed to blindly trust a large corporation with our personal health?
I found a number listed on the website for a customer care representative and got busy trying to reach someone. Honestly, I thought that I’d grow old before they were done listing all the options and corresponding numbers. Finally I heard my department, I pushed the number only to be dragged through another list of menu options. Where is the menu option to bypass all the bullshit so that I can talk to someone, that’s all I wanted to know. But alas, they didn’t give me that option. I did the laundry, the dishes, and mowed the lawn as the menu selections droned on and on. Eventually my department came up and I excitedly pushed the button. Success! I was told that someone would “be right with me”. I didn’t mind the hold. Holding is fine. I just sat there and tapped on my glass while I waited. And tapped, and tapped some more. Soon I had several pens and pencils rapping the side of the glass for an awesome rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. But what I didn’t have, was a customer care representative who would, “be right with me”. That part wasn’t true. I stayed on hold over ten minutes. Just how many people are calling Starbucks at 10 o’clock in the morning?
ANYWAY, I finally get to talk to Michelle. I told Michelle that I’d like to have the ingredient list for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. And Michelle cheerily gave them to me. At record speed. Finally the phone conversation had sped up, but now I needed her to slow down. Ironic, isn’t it?
Here’s the ingredient list for the Pumpkin Spice Latte: sugar, condensed nonfat milk, sweet condensed nonfat milk, annatto (a colorant), natural and artificial flavors (which she couldn’t give me), and caramel coloring.
Which means that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte made with soymilk and no whip is not vegan. It is a valuable lesson in what I like to call, “veganomics”. Always check the ingredients, never assume, and don’t be afraid to express disappointment (or in my case, disgust) that the offerings aren’t vegan. The more we speak up on the issue of hidden animal products in our foods and beverages, the more people will hear. The more people that hear, the more people think. And the thinking leads to education, which finally leads to self morals and ethics. So in a round about way, telling Starbucks you love the Pumpkin Spice Latte – but won’t buy it because of it’s hidden dairy products – can lead to others discovery of animal cruelty.
So listen up Starbucks, vegans would like to drink your Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Quit adding the crap like condensed milk. And while your at it, take down that ridiculous banner ad that boasts how much milk is in your products. Your claims about a Grande Latte providing me with “half the dairy I need for the day” is a bold inaccuracy. Take it down and start serving up some seasonal vegan lattes. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’ll have a bunch of cranky, non-caffeinated vegans to contend with.
** UPDATE: 9/6/11: Please also see our update on the nutritional information provided by Starbucks at How Vegan is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?