Washington Post: Why the pumpkin spice latte is a white supremacist drink

The real reason you should feel guilty for drinking one of these vile concoctions is that it’s terrible, and also full of calories—380 if made with 2% milk (that’s the equivalent of eight tablespoons of sugar). But to each their own.

But Gillian Brockell, staff writer for the Washington Post‘s history section, thinks that you need to be aware of the drink’s genocidal history. Why?

a.) because it contains nutmeg


b.) because nutmeg was originally grown in the Banda Islands (in what is now Indonesia), which were seized by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, who exploited the nutmeg and mace trade. The Dutch then fought the Bandanese, leading to a terrible attrition of the population and then enslavement of those who survived.

Yes, that’s right. You should avoid the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) because of the history behind one of the spices in the drink. Read and weep at The Washington Post (click on the screenshot):


Now Brockell doesn’t explicitly say that you shouldn’t drink the concoction because of its history, but that’s the implicit message:

Pumpkin-spice latte season is starting even earlier this year, with the famous drink spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves pouring into Starbucks coffee shops Tuesday.

But underneath those fuzzy-sweater vibes, the spices in “the PSL” have a dark history. Particularly nutmeg. It’s a story of war, genocide and slavery.

She then recounts the history of the Banda Islands, winding up with a helpful reminder of how many Starbucks in Manhattan peddle the white-supremacist drink:

And, for the record, Manhattan boasts 240 Starbucks that are peddling pumpkin-spice lattes at this very moment.

Now at first I thought this was a big joke—a spoof of Callout Culture. But I doubt it, especially given the articles that Brockell has written previously for the Post, which are largely about racism, slavery, and history. One could also argue that Brockell is just giving us a history lesson, but I seriously doubt it. After all, nutmeg is in lots of stuff. No, she’s executing a huge stretch to tie PSLs to white supremacy culture and genocide. Could anything be more inane?

Of course, nutmeg now comes from many places; as Wikipedia notes,

World production of nutmeg is estimated to average between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes per year, with annual world demand estimated at over 9,000 tonnes; production of mace is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes. Indonesia, with world market share of 75%, and Grenada, with 20%, dominate production and exports of both products. Other producers include India, Malaysia (especially Penang, where the trees grow wild within untamed areas), Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Caribbean islands such as St. Vincent.

One could, I suppose make the case that all of these places suffered from colonialism, but that’s not relevant, because now they’re independent. Should one then avoid all foods that contain nutmet? Why doesn’t Brockell just come out and say that we shouldn’t drink this stuff rather than hint at it obliquely.

This article is trash, pure and simple, and it’s shameful that the Post published it. I used to think the Post was free from the encroaching Wokeness that’s ruining the New York Times, but no, they have to emit nonsense like this.

And if you want to say, “So what? It’s only one trivial article in a newspaper”, be aware that this is emblematic of what is happening to liberal journalism everywhere. Is there any Left-leaning venue that hasn’t succumbed to Wokeness?




  1. Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I always go for a pumpkin spice latte every fall.

    But then just like with alcohol, me-right-after-the-first-sip wonders how on earth past-me ever thought that drink was remotely good.


  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    By those lights, electricity is the product of terrible actors and behavior too.

  3. GBJames
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    FFS. This “history of violence behind…” argument can be made about every single food humans consume. To say nothing of everything else in human life.

    News flash: Humans have a long history of violence. How does stuff like this get published?

    • Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I was going to say Nutmeg!? Doesn’t Brockell know about the cruel history behind all the sugar used in the drink?

      • yazikus
        Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Oh, I own that book! Sweetness & Power by Sidney Mintz. I’m a sucker for food-related histories.

        • David Coxill
          Posted September 8, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          In that case ,two i can recommend .
          Salt ,by Mark Kurlansky
          Cod ,also by Mark Kurlansky

          • yazikus
            Posted September 8, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

            I’ve got Salt – but now I need to get the Cod!

          • GBJames
            Posted September 8, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, David. Both are very good books. There’s a third one in his sort-of-trilogy called The Basque History of the World which is also well worth reading.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        That was my first thought too: “What about sugar?” and that one’s still really bad.

  4. Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Trouble is, pretty much the whole world and everything in it has a “dark history … a story of war, genocide and slavery.”

    What is one to do?

  5. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    What a dreary polemicist. Thanks for the tip; I shared it on Facebook.

  6. Roo
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Ben and Jerry’s has a new social justice ice cream flavor out, so maybe social justice and food flavors are like a ‘thing’ now? Definitely one of the weirder manifestations of capitalism, ha ha! I feel like there are so, sooo many things to worry about when it comes to our consumer system (mostly related to the waste it creates, carbon emissions now that internet delivery is such a big thing, and global wealth inequality,)… but a history of violence behind a given spice? As others noted, there is probably a history of violence behind anything that had value and was traded, from salt to tulips.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I think they wanted a clickbaity hook for this article otherwise no-one would read it. Cue the ‘Pumpskin Spice Latte’ connection.

      And it is in the history section, it’s not like this cheery recap of genocide was shoehorned into ‘Food and Drink’.

    • BJ
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      “I feel like there are so, sooo many things to worry about when it comes to our consumer system (mostly related to the waste it creates, carbon emissions now that internet delivery is such a big thing, and global wealth inequality…”

      Yeah, but those things are so hard and complex and stuff. It’s much easier to just write articles complaining about pumpkin spice lattes, and to retweet articles about pumpkin spice lattes and similar crap so you can feel like you’re an activist.

  7. Marilyn
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I think the best journalism, right now, comes From ProPublica.

  8. Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I get the feeling this is native advertisement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_advertising

  9. Al
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The concept of colonialism is itself racist. The only difference between what we call colonialism today and the forms of conquest engaged in by just about every capable race on earth is that Europeans had the means to project power across oceans and better weaponry. Not only that, it was Europeans, particularly Britain, that stamped out slavery in all but a few backwaters where it was practiced until well into the 20th century. The cost of maintaining an anti-slaving naval fleet was substantial. How about some gratitude. How about a cessation of this business of creating jargon and twisting history with the aim of singling out white people for condemnation.

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    If the Post wanted to do something far more significant is should just stick to the subject of coffee. Could call it – What coffee drinking has become. The explanation in a word is a – Joke. Starbucks creates a demand for something we do not need. It is expensive and it’s not coffee.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Coffee is something we don’t need? Speak for yourself!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted September 8, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Randall is saying Starbucks coffee isn’t coffee we need. I agree – even the plain coffees aren’t great.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 8, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Having trouble reading today? I said – Starbucks created a demand for something we do not need. That something was expensive crap to drink not coffee.

        • dabertini
          Posted September 8, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink


        • GBJames
          Posted September 8, 2019 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          Well, Randall, my reading is just fine. It is easy to construe your comment as blaming coffee consumption as somehow the product of the Evil Starbucks Empire’s invidious corruption of naive consumers.

          Starbucks, of course, created no demand for a product “nobody needs”. They created a company that serves a product that many people want. I’m not one of them, and don’t much like the flavor of their coffee, but I’m not self centered enough to demean those who do get frequent their stores.

    • yazikus
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      I also own that book: Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry.
      Except we do need it.

  11. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I don’t share PCC’s visceral reaction to this article, although the bit at the end about ‘peddling’ lattes, as though Starbucks are drug-pushers*, is ridiculous.

    But even if it’s not particularly egregious(it’s quite an interesting article, it’s just pointlessly hitched to a Starbucks coffee drink as a clickbaity hook), it still turns people off this side of the political divide. It’s unnecessary.

    It’s this kind of stuff that the liberal-left could just stop indulging in very easily, and in one fell swoop they would deny the populist right at least half of their talking points.
    You can be pretty much sure that this article will be more kindling for the far-right bonfire, more fuel for the flames of confected reactionary outrage, and it will encourage people who are wavering in the middle to vote against the liberal-left. The anti-SJW right will be tweeting about it and posting YouTube videos about it, and a few more potential liberal voters will get turned off and attracted to Trump. All of it adds up, little-by-little.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      …Not that I use Starbucks anyway, they’re mental expensive. And The UK competitor, Costa Coffee, is even more mental expensive. In my local one they sell tiny chocolate cornflake/rice krispie cakes(the ones we used to make as kids, that took no real effort at all, and that were prepared in about a minute and then shoved in the oven)…for £2.99. They’re about half the size of a small mobile phone.
      There’s a truly forlorn looking array of ‘brownies’ that sell for £3.49 each, and they’re the same size too.

      I think it’s the proximity to coffee that lets them get away with it. People are so fucking wired from their coffee fix that they look at a tiny packet of peanuts for three quid and gibber ‘s-s-sounds like a b-b-bargain’ through their grinding teeth and hand over the money.

  12. Historian
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I draw a different implication from the article. I don’t think Brockell is saying that people should not drink PSLs because that would deprive a livelihood for those third world people that produce nutmeg. Most of the article is devoted to describing the genocide the Dutch committed against the Bandanese. The unstated political message for today’s world, if there is one, is that the Dutch should pay reparations to the descendants of the Bandanese that they massacred.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      But that would be a different article, wouldn’t it? This one is all about linking the consumption of a drink in coffee shops with social evil. An article intended to educate about the history of Dutch colonialism would be informative. This one simply seeks to induce guilt among consumers of a beverage (and smug satisfaction among those who don’t drink it).

      • yazikus
        Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Anthony Bourdain did a great episode on Congo and touched on the brutal history of Belgian colonization. His interview with the rail-workers was heartrending.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          I haven’t seen that episode but his work was always thoughtful and I’m sure you are correct.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          I just read a book, ‘Blood River’ by Tim Butcher, that covers the region and the unbelievable awfulness of Belgian colonialism. It’s interesting – he recreates HM Stanley’s(of ‘mr Livingstone I presume?’ fame) expedition to chart the Congo.

          It’s a lunatic idea, but it does give a sense of how profoundly screwed up that part of the world is. Nothing works, there’s no law, tribal forces and militia just roam around doing what they want, whenever he enters a new area he just has to randomly bribe the local shysters and ‘leaders’, boats and buses turn up once a month if at all, etc….he made the journey in the early noughties but I don’t get the impression that there’s been much positive change since.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I agree. I don’t think it’s trash, and I came away having learned something I didn’t know.

      I personally think the link to Starbucks was a clickbaity springboard for an article that otherwise no-one would bother reading. The connection was badly expressed though, and would inevitably be considered admonitory, so why risk it?

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Is there any Left-leaning venue that hasn’t succumbed to Wokeness?

    The Daily Worker? 🙂

    Okay, technically it doesn’t exist anymore (and hasn’t for quite some time now), but I think the People’s World website lays claim to being its successor of sorts. Not one of my regular stops, but a quick scan of it just this minute doesn’t disclose any items about pumpkin spice lattes or other indicia of bourgeois wokeness. Looks to be still bangin’ the drum for the old internationalism and proletariat class-consciousness and solidarity.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      IMO there are actually plenty of liberal outlets that haven’t succumbed to wokeness, especially considering how nebulous a term ‘woke’ is.

  14. merilee
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    As a non-coffee drinker and lover of real pumpkin pie spices, mixed with real pumpkin, I find the smell of those commercial mixtures nauseating. I actually like the smell of real coffee, but what is the totally artificial-smelling junk they put in so many of the so-callex specialty coffees? Vanillin perhaps?

  15. Alex K.
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Speaking of pumpkin lattes, are they any GOOD ones that aren’t Starbucks?

    Asking for research purposes.

  16. EdwardM
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Lattes are ruined espressos. Never touch the stuff.

    The history in the article is interesting (follow the link to the thesis for a good study on what happened) otherwise just another pile of woke crap. Shame on the WaPo editors for letting those parts of the article through.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Fact is that coffee is intended to be consumed black. Unadulterated. As god intended.

      Mixing cream or other substances into it is proof of one’s acceptance of racist and colonial ideas.

  17. KD
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Is anyone else nostalgic for the old days when the problem was satanic messages being back masked on heavy metal albums, and you did have to worry that drinking a latte was covertly empowering the second-coming of Hitler?

  18. Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Ask your barista to omit the “blood nutmeg” from your pumpkin spice latte and see what happens.

  19. David Coxill
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Giles Milton wrote Nathaniel’s Nutmeg about the nutmeg trade ,the Dutch let the Brits have New Netherland -Manhattan in exchange for leaving the Dutch alone in the Spice Islands .
    I think it is a bit more complex than that ,Nutmeg was thought to cure the plague and was very expensive .

  20. Michael Fisher
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Gillian Brockell loves Starbucks PSL & there’s a photo below of her drinking the stuff:

    “If you’ve followed me in the last year (and most of you have) then you don’t know yet that I unreservedly love pumpkin spice. It’s involuntary and I’m sorry”

    The article is intended as a history lesson & not a call to boycott.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Of course she “unreservedly loves” Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes. Duh, she’s a white girl. Now the poster child for that vile concoction.

  21. Harrison
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t it only last year we had articles saying that attacks on pumpkin spice lattes were inherently sexist because it’s a popular drink among women?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 8, 2019 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      For going on four years now, pumpkin spice lattes have been condemned, or shall I say fetishized by the woke, as sexist(as you note), as well as racist and classist, and PCC(E)has two prior posts on this phenomenon.

      In 2016 PCC(E)wrote a post about an article that framed the pumpkin itself as well as the Starbuck’s product as racist https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-pumpkins-more-po-mo-lunacy/; and about a year later, he posted about it again https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/i-had-a-pumpkin-latte/.

      To bring up these prior posts is by no means to insinuate that I consider the current post a rehash of old news. Whether or not the author consciously intended the article under discussion to be “woke” or not, it becomes an exemplar of the enduring force that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte has as a fetish object for woke folk. All kinds of ‘meaning’ accrete to it and one must study the absurdity of it all with the utmost seriousness. The phenomenon of the focus is as interesting to me as the substance of that which is focused upon.

  22. Posted September 8, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t frequent Starbucks much and have never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I also prefer my pumpkin spice in pumpkin.

    Virtually, every “advance” of humanity has been committed by one group at the expense of another.

    I, also, am very tired of the focus on “whites” against the “blacks” throughout history. It has always been every color against every color: whites against whites, blacks against blacks, yellows against yellows, browns against browns, and every permutation thereof. There are even instructions in the Old Testament about how Jews were to treat their slaves. In the New Testament, Paul tells Christian slaves what their responsibilities still are to their masters.

    Could we not find some ongoing good in vile humanity?

  23. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    “Gillian Brockell, staff writer for the Washington Post‘s history section”
    Gillian must be out of ideas for stories to waste his time trying to find something like this that could only be offensive to the WOKE. Lots of things falling under history would be more interesting.

  24. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    On the subject of the Post having this sort of article, it is worth noting that it is in a section called History, and a sub-section there called Retropolis (ooh, clever name).

    That news organizations these days feel the need to have such sections, and this sort of article in them, is lamentable, but it just an addition to their more customary fare, not a replacement. More pages allows more advertising, or something like that.

  25. BJ
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Ah, brings back memories of this gem: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-pumpkins-more-po-mo-lunacy/

    Of course, that was an “academic” paper!

  26. Posted September 8, 2019 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Pretty soon, Ms Brockell can dish about the evils lurking in eggnog!

  27. Dionigi
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Most of the worlds nutmeg still appears to come from Indonesia(96.6MUSD) according to Wikipedia.
    Stop drinking and using nutmeg and you will be hurting Indonesia’s economy not the economy of Portugal and the Nederlands. Thinking you can change history by doing something now is a ridicules idea.

  28. max blancke
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    You cannot really spoof these people. Their departure from sensible reality is increasing at such a high rate that even if you try to make some absurd parody of them, they will catch up and pass you by in no time.

    Part of the problem is that we are also dealing with people who have little knowledge of history. Oddly, she claims to have a BS in history, but her articles suggest to me that it might be the sort of history where students are taught about a series of events, rarely supported by evidence, which demonstrate that the groups with which the student identifies have always been oppressed, and which demonstrate conclusively that the only real solution is international socialism.

    She alleges in one article that Lincoln was“surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel” and was “into Marx”.

  29. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 9, 2019 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Ms Brockell wrote a histoy piece with a tedious link to Starbucks.
    The history of the Banda’s is slightly more complicated than her story, of course. The Portugese never established a trading post because of the hostility of theBandanese.
    In 1609 a Dutch force was under Admiral Verhoeff, the Dutchwereplanning to built a fort on Neira. The Bandanese were far from happy with this idea and under the guise of negotiations ambushedanddecapitated Verhoeffand two high officers, and 46 other Dutchmen. Coen was one of the few escapees.
    Coen’s later expeditions were also a revenge expeditions. That is of course no excuse for his -with his force of Japanese mercenaries- massacre, torture and enslavement of the Bandanese. That tragic part of history is true.

  30. Posted September 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    You know, I really think the people who keep pushing the racism and white supremacy buttons are bonkers and are causing more harm than good. From the little I know about the history of who did what to whom, I don’t think any group is innocent of being a tyrant and enslaving others. It’s in all of us. What we need is to stop from doing it and move on. This pointing and accusing is as bad as the act itself, imho.

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