As autumn hits, there’s a noticeable switch from what people are carrying as they wander through towns or are out running errands. That’s aside from the obvious mobile phone, handbag or other essentials, but the drinking accessory of choice is certainly one of the first things to change. The majority of people sipping on an iced tea, blended coffee or frozen smoothie through a paper straw for the past few months takes a turn and the first signs that winter is coming appears: those infamous “winter cups” that high street coffee shops have become synonymous with over the years.
Paired with a light jacket that’s not quite a winter coat, a warm drink in hand is sure to compensate for the differing temperatures throughout a typical English day at this time of year. When you’re not ready to pull the winter scarves out of storage and certainly refuse to dig for the wooly hats, the next best thing is to keep your hands - and bodies - warm with your hot drink of choice when wandering the streets.
But the question of what’s inside the winter cups is often an interesting one. Without putting too much thought into it, you’d be safe to bet on a warming hot chocolate in the late afternoon, a strong black coffee or a piping hot tea for commuters on their early morning plod to work or, let’s face it, a novelty latte of some sort at any other time of day.
One minute we are enjoying an Indian summer in late September and the next time we blink, we realise how suddenly the fad of pumpkin spice has hit us. The high street coffee shops have rolled out their “winter” and - dare I say it - Christmas cups, and advertising all around has turned with the leaves. It’s almost as if the second October strikes, everywhere becomes cinnamon scented and decorated with every shade of orange you can imagine. This happens all over, but then there are the usual suspects you’d imagine to jump on this bandwagon - you know what I’m talking about - coffee shops.
Pumpkin spice is bound upon us far beyond an appropriately flavoured latte in autumn time, but entering the second year of owning my own coffee shop, it’s fascinating to see the change you see on the streets from a different perspective. Hearing the orders change almost overnight as there’s a sudden chill in the air, from an Iced Oat Americano to a Gingerbread Latte warms me from within practically immediately. The regular customers who’ve never ordered anything but a Skinny Flat White are suddenly asking for a pump of Pumpkin Spice in their “usual” and all of the Caramel Latte lovers have made the switch too, without even a need to mention that we offer such seasonal flavours.
It’s almost like an unspoken knowingness that this autumnal flavour is going to appear and alas, it takes over everyone’s go-to order. For the non-coffee drinkers, there’s a noticeable rise in demand for chai lattes and a sudden surge in popularity of our maple-pecan danish. The sudden call for these unique flavours is a shift I can only say is so significant for this specific season, but seems to be one that’s welcomed and embraced by all.
The scent of the gingerbread syrup as it blends with a freshly brewed shot of espresso is my new association with autumn, paired perfectly with decorative pine cones and the changing colour of the leaves of course.
By Lauren Loudon