Love ’em or hate ’em, pumpkin spice lattes have come to signal fall’s arrival just as much as Spirit Halloween stores in strip malls, football season and cuffing. And in San Francisco—a city that likes its beverages over-the-top—you have a whole new way to enjoy autumn’s most polarizing drink, only this version comes inside the fleshy gourd that gives the drink its name.
That’s right, you can enjoy a pumpkin spice latte inside a pumpkin itself—but only if you’re willing to shell out $23, that is.
For Sofia Guglani, the founder and owner of Avotoasty on Union Street in the city’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, the price is justified.
“Cocktails can cost $18 or $20 in San Francisco,” Guglani said. “And there’s a lot of work that goes into crafting these.”
At Avotoasty, every pumpkin is hand-carved, and Guglani estimated that it takes around 10 minutes to prepare one—creating a smooth, clean interior for enjoying the beverage is key. Beyond scooping out handfuls of pulpy seeds, there’s also the time involved in selecting the pumpkins. Guglani and her staff hand-picked them to be roughly the same size, sourcing them from local pumpkin patches like Clancy’s—and Trader Joe’s.
“I look forward to this every October,” said customer and fashion blogger Kelsey Kaplan, who was enjoying one of the titanic beverages Thursday. She said the latte is worth the price, because it’s experiential—and delicious.
“Maybe it’s a placebo effect,” Kaplan said. “But it tastes better than any other pumpkin spice latte.”
Barista Angel S. guessed that Avotoasty sells an average of 25 of the pumpkin lattes (in a pumpkin) a day—you can also purchase the beverage sans pumpkin for a mere $6.50. At least five sold in the 30 minutes The Standard was there on Thursday afternoon.
“Just do it,” the barista said. “You get a cute little pumpkin at the end.”
Guglani encourages customers to have the pumpkin washed out when they’re finished so they can take it home as a Halloween decoration.
The beverage itself—a 16-ounce latte plus four ounces of whipped cream and four pumps of pumpkin spice syrup—can be ordered hot or iced. They’re heavy, like a scorpion bowl at a tiki bar, and maneuvering one can be tricky: We recommend consuming the weighty drink with a straw to avoid getting whipped cream all over your face. It’s the fifth year Guglani is serving up the experiential beverage, which is available during the month of October only.
The month has special significance for the small business owner, who opened her café on Oct. 1, 2017. She began Avotoasty to create a coffee shop that had healthier food options than the traditional pastries and baked goods ubiquitous at cafés—thus the avocado toast, salads and smoothies on the menu.
Just like the pumpkin latte bowl, many of Avotoasty’s concoctions are highly Instagrammable, like the unicorn toasty and the bowls served with purple blossoms.
Guglani, who previously worked in hospitality and public relations, said she’s on a mission to bring healthy food to the world. Avotoasty has two other locations: an Oakland storefront and a pop-up at the Sightglass flagship location, which provides the café with its coffee. Guglani’s estimate of her signature drink is nearly as generous as the mountain of whipped cream balanced on top of one.
“It’s the most iconic pumpkin spice latte in San Francisco,” she said. “And, I hope, the world.”
Julie Zigoris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org