Peet’s Pumpkin Latte

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It’s officially autumn, and that means PSL mania.

Last year I wrote a screed about Starbucks in which I swore I would never drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). I haven’t broken that vow… but curiosity did lead me to try a Pumpkin Latte at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Most of the drinks I’ve had at Peet’s are far superior to their Starbucks counterparts, so I figured Peet’s was the way to go if I was going to give in to the PSL hype.

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For a limited time, Peet’s is now offering a bunch of spiced lattes, including pumpkin, that can be made with your choice of non-dairy milk. I went with almond milk, although in hindsight I wish I’d gone with coconut, which Peet’s now offers (there was a time when they didn’t). I think the coconut milk would’ve given the Pumpkin Latte a thickness and fluffiness that was noticeably lacking.

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Peet’s Pumpkin Latte was not bad. It was a perfectly fine drink, albeit light on the coffee flavor. But did it taste like a pumpkin pie? Sadly, no. It reminded me more of a chai latte: slightly spiced, a little savory. I drank the whole thing, but I wouldn’t order it again. It just didn’t pack the autumnal punch I was hoping for. And if you love the taste of coffee, you would be better off getting a plain old latte.

As a footnote, I’ll add that despite not being bowled over by their Pumpkin Latte, Peet’s continues to be my favorite coffee shop. Every so often I’ll get excited that some random coffee place offers dairy-free milks and I’ll order an almond milk latte, and I’m shocked at how often I end up with something that is so bad it’s undrinkable. Not all dairy-free coffee drinks are alike! Pick and choose carefully, and share with us the ones you love!

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Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Thai Tea Mini Mochi Ice Cream

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Here’s the problem with Trader Joe’s: I go in there to get some eggs, I get distracted by all the new products in cute packaging, and I come out with fifteen items — none of which are eggs. Then after loading my car, I realize my mistake and I have to crawl back in there to get the eggs, making sure to go to a different cashier this time so that the first one doesn’t recognize me and say, “Weren’t you just here?”

This week, I was distracted by the pumpkin-flavored dog treats (so crunchy and autumnal!) and the newest offering in the frozen dessert aisle: Non-Dairy Thai Tea Mini Mochi. First of all, how can you resist this festive box? Pastels and polka dots? It’s so pretty you could give it to someone as a gift and not even bother to wrap it.

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The fact that these mochi are miniature makes them even more appealing. Bite-sized nuggets mean convenient snacking and less sugar with each serving. I love anything mini, like miniskirts, Mini Coopers, and Minnie Mouse.

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Minnie and me polka-dotting it up at Disneyland in 2013.

Like their Vegan Matcha Green Tea Mochi, Trader Joe’s Thai Tea Mini Mochi are made from coconut milk. Some ice cream alternatives made from coconut milk simply taste too much like coconuts, but this one doesn’t. It tastes like tea.

But “Thai tea” might be a bit of a stretch. Thai tea is traditionally a strong black tea, sometimes spiced, mixed with sweetened condensed milk and served over ice. It’s a lactose-intolerant person’s worst nightmare. I don’t understand how all these Asians are digesting condensed milk. It makes no sense.

Despite the name, the Trader Joe’s mochi taste just like black tea. There’s nothing Thai about it. In fact, the ice cream is not too sweet and that’s a good thing.

Just so you know, when you open the package, this is what you’ll see:

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All you need to do is pop those suckers out of their sad plastic tray, arrange them on a tea plate, and serve them with a cup of your favorite tea. Not too shabby and way more special than a box of Joe-Joe’s — although I wouldn’t kick those out of bed either.

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SusieCakes Cupcakes

fullsizeoutput_e5fI’ve had a cupcake fixation ever since my mom used to pick me up from preschool and take me to get a cupcake at the local bakery. I have to admit that although I gave up dairy years ago, I still eat the occasional cupcake, whether it’s the butter-laden kind or not.

My favorite cupcake shop in Los Angeles remains Big Sugar in Studio City, which does offer a very good vegan cupcake. But alas, for a Westsider, a trip to the Valley can be a daunting journey. So I have found my go-to substitute: SusieCakes.

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Don’t let the fact that SusieCakes is a chain turn you off. I’ve only been to the Brentwood location, but every time I’ve gotten a cupcake there, it has been unbelievably fresh and moist. Every time. To me, that’s extraordinary. Freshness is the most important factor in assessing a cupcake. As much as I love Big Sugar, I have gotten cupcakes there that were a teeny bit on the stale side. And forget Sprinkles — their cupcakes are stale at least half the time.

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A peek into the SusieCakes kitchen on a busy Saturday.

The frosting at SusieCakes is also beyond reproach: smooth, creamy, not too cloyingly sweet. My only criticism is that there’s too much of it. Many of their cupcakes are filled with frosting, so that when you bite into it, you come across a well of frosting in the middle. This is simply too much frosting, if you ask me.

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Please ignore the lipstick marks.

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My favorite flavors are the chocolate with vanilla frosting and the chocolate with peanut butter frosting. Holy moly, these are good. Unfortunately, they don’t have any vegan or dairy-free cupcakes. But unless you have a dairy allergy, I would encourage you to put aside your dairy-free diet to indulge in one of these delightful treats. It’s worth it.

SUSIECAKES, 11708 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049

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