This is pumpkin spice season.
Since Starbucks introduced the pumpkin spice latte in 2003, a wave of sweet cinnamon, fragrant nutmeg and too much clove for my taste has swept the nation each fall.
Beyond lattes, a dash of pumpkin and this spice blend, which often includes ginger, allspice and sometimes mace, now shows up in yogurt, cereal, ice cream, waffles, pancakes, tortilla chips, cream cheese and dog treats — and that’s just a sampling from the last advertisement Trader Joe’s delivered to my house.
I won’t call you basic names if you look forward to this flavor all year. I understand the impulse to wrap your hands around a hot drink that warms you, body and soul, on a chilly morning.
In fact, here are half a dozen comforting spiced beverages served by local coffee shops you should try now that the temperatures are dropping and the leaves are turning. Each is every bit as delicious as the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte, even if none of them are verified on Twitter. As an added benefit, they’ll still be available in the depths of winter when the pumpkin spice latte is just a memory and Starbucks is pushing holiday cups full of a questionable chestnut concoction.
Limestone Coffee, 217 E. Main St., Medford, focuses on expertly roasted and brewed coffee, but I also go there for the $4 Nepali chai. Owner Clint Orchuk learned the recipe for this subtly sweet chai while traveling in Asia, but its gingery kick is perfect on a foggy Rogue Valley day, too.
The Mayan mocha for $4.75 is another of my favorites at Limestone. All the mochas at this downtown coffee shop feature dark chocolate that deepens the flavor of the coffee instead of covering it up with sweetness. In this version, an agave-based Mexican-style chocolate sauce from Portland producer Holy Kakow adds the insistent spiciness of cinnamon and a hint of ancho and chipotle chilies.
Rogue Roasters, 610 SW Sixth St., Grants Pass, makes an amazing spicy Mexican mocha with rich espresso, cinnamon-infused Mexican dark chocolate that brings the heat and steamed half-and-half that will make you wonder why anyone ever orders a low-fat version. Bittersweet chocolate shavings sprinkled over the top add even more depth to both the flavor and the design swirled into the foam. A 12-ounce drink costs $3.50.
For more rich chocolate, this time infused with orange, head to Buttercloud Bakery and Cafe, 310 Genessee St., Medford. The house hot chocolate spiked with citrus flavor is certain to warm your heart and brighten your day. Buttercloud also serves a terrific chai that’s nicely spiced and not too sweet. Specialty drinks come in 8-, 12- or 16-ounce sizes, with prices starting at $3.
If you love cinnamon and sugar, Dutch Bros. cinnamon dolce is the flavor for you. It combines cinnamon with English toffee and even more cinnamon sprinkled across the top of your latte, breve, cocoa or chai. This is sugar and spice and everything nice, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Grab your favorite sweater and spice up your autumn with any of these cozy cups of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.