Starbucks Is Putting Olive Oil in Its Drinks – Is This the Next Revolution in Coffee?

It’s not so different from bulletproof coffee.

February 21, 2023

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Photo by: Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Is this the moment we all start drinking our coffee with olive oil in it? After Starbucks gave Food Network an advance taste of its new Oleato line of beverages ahead of this week’s official launch, we couldn’t stop wondering.

Starbucks’ new line of Oleato coffee beverages (“oleato” means “oiled” or “with oil” in Italian) features Starbucks arabica coffee infused with a spoonful of Partanna cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil in what the company says is “unexpected alchemy” resulting in a “velvety smooth, deliciously lush new coffee experience.”

Using words like “revolutionary” and “transformational” to describe its oil-meets-coffee innovation, Starbucks is introducing the new beverage platform in select locations in Italy on February 22. The initial lineup includes Oleato Caffé Latte, Oleato Iced Shaken Espresso and Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew. At the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan, the Oleato platform will feature an Oleato Iced Cortado, Oleato Deconstructed and Golden Foam Espresso Martini, along with the Oleato Caffé Latte and the Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew.

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

The Oleato beverages will roll out to other select markets around the world this year, starting in the U.S. with Southern California this spring, and expanding into Japan, the Middle East and the United Kingdom later in 2023.

The idea for the Oleato line originated with Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz, who discovered, during a trip last year to Sicily, the Mediterranean custom of eating a daily spoonful of olive oil. Schultz decided to add his daily spoonful of Partanna extra virgin olive oil to his morning coffee and — ecco! — an idea was born.

“I was absolutely stunned at the unique flavor and texture created when the Partanna extra virgin olive oil was infused into Starbucks coffee,” he says in a story on the Starbucks website. “In both hot and cold coffee beverages, what it produced was an unexpected, velvety, buttery flavor that enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.”

Returning to the U.S., Schultz tasked the Starbucks beverage development team with launching a new line of coffees riffing off his discovery, and they ran with it.

Amy Dilger, principal Starbucks beverage developer, says that, while she had never before considered combining olive oil and coffee, the idea began to make sense to her.

The Castelvetrano olives used in Starbucks’ bespoke Partanna extra virgin olive oil “are sweet and really buttery,” Dilger says in a press release. “I think of all the buttery caramels that we mix with our coffee. That buttery smooth richness combines so well with our coffee.”

After we were given the opportunity to taste four beverages in the Oleato line — three cold, one hot — we’re still processing our response to the oil-and-coffee combo. (Although the flavors were subtle, the combination of textures perplexed us. We still don’t know quite what to make of it.)

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

The Oleato Iced Shaken Espresso, which was inspired by the panoply of locally grown almonds, pistachios, walnuts and chestnuts in Sicily, features Starbucks Blonde Roast Espresso, hazelnut syrup and oatmilk shaken with Partanna extra virgin olive oil and ice. We found it quite tasty, with a distinctly nutty flavor, although the separation of the oil from the rest of the drink over time might make us inclined to drink it more quickly than we otherwise would.

The Oleato Caffe Latte, made with Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast and Partanna extra virgin olive oil steamed with oatmilk and served hot, struck us as more straightforward, albeit with a richer mouthfeel than a typical latte. Someone tasting it alongside us said he found it “wider.”

The Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew may have been our favorite of the new beverages, in part because the infusion of the olive oil into the vanilla sweet cream cold foam felt as if it made the most sense, rendering it silky and rich. Plus, sipping our coffee through the subtly sweet, fluffy foam and watching it drift gradually down our glass in lava-lamp swirls added to the fun.

While, alas, we were unable to sample the Oleato Golden Foam Espresso Martini (Starbucks Reserve Espresso, vodka and vanilla bean syrup topped off with olive-oil-and-sweet-cream “golden foam”), we were were able to taste the Oleato Iced Cortado, which also evoked a cocktail in its presentation. Made with Starbucks Reserve Espresso, demerara syrup, a dash of orange bitters and oatmilk, the drink is infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil and served over ice. An orange peel garnish brings out the beverage’s citrus notes and brings this delicious cold drink neck-and-neck with the Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew as the beverage in the new lineup we are most likely to order again.

In fact, we could see enjoying any of the Oleato beverages we tasted again, though perhaps not every day – more as an event. The nuttiness in the olive oil definitely brought out the chocolate notes in the coffee. We found the beverages satisfying, even downright filling.

To the doubters out there — and surely there are many — we will say … remember bulletproof coffee? People are already putting fats in their coffee. (See also: cream.) And furthermore who would have predicted we’d all be drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes or Nitro Cold Brew coffee or Pink Drinks before Starbucks brought them to the masses?

“There’s going to be people who say, ‘Olive oil in coffee?’ But the proof is in the cup,” Shultz says, noting the company’s long history of coffee innovation. “In over 40 years, I can’t remember a moment in time where I’ve been more excited, more enthused.”

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