Forget syrups and sprinkles — Starbucks’ newest line of beverages, Oleato, feature extra virgin olive oil in coffee. Oleato launched in Italy yesterday as a series of beverages including a latte, espresso, cold brew, iced shaken espresso and iced cortado. The coffee giant is partnering with Sicilian olive oil manufacturer Partanna in the venture.
“I was absolutely stunned at the unique flavor and texture created when the Partanna extra virgin olive oil was infused into Starbucks coffee,” said Howard Schultz, interim CEO of Starbucks, in a news release. “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.”
Beverages in the Oleato range are not simply flavored with olive oil, nor do they have just a hint of it. Each drink is made with a spoonful of olive oil in coffee, adding 120 calories to the total calorie count. Starbucks’ move comes after olive oil-based drinks trended on the social media platform TikTok last year, with fans saying it had anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive oil’s health benefits can partly be attributed to its monounsaturated fatty acids, which contain vitamins, minerals and polyphenols. Olive oil is also a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which also includes foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans and nuts.
Italy’s coffee scene is famous for its independent and family-run cafes, but Starbucks currently has around 20 stores in the country. Some Italians called for a boycott of Starbucks when it announced plans to open its first Italian location in 2018. At that time, Schultz said: “We are not coming to teach Italians how to make coffee. We’re coming here with humility and respect, to show what we’ve learned.”
Amy Dilger, principal Starbucks beverage developer who worked on the Oleato range, looked to ideas such as Greek yogurt with a drizzle of olive oil or olive oil and sea salt ice cream for inspiration. Infusing extra virgin olive oil by steaming or shaking it with oat milk created a “luxurious, textural experience that’s similar to whole milk,” Dilger said in the same news release.
However, adding fat to coffee is not new, nor is olive oil in coffee. Coffee drinkers can add fat the old-fashioned way, with cream, milk or even butter, and recipes for olive oil-infused coffee exist online. But Starbucks is hoping that people will try the Oleato line because they want to know what the concoction tastes like.
Perhaps consumers want to try the Oleato line because they’ve heard that there are health benefits to extra virgin olive oil. While Starbucks isn’t making any health claims with Oleato, it’s hoping that people, through their own research, will come to see it as a healthy choice despite the extra 120 calories per beverage.
While Starbucks will have to wait to see whether customers approve of olive oil in coffee, the company has plans to introduce the Oleato line in Southern California this spring and in Japan, the Middle East and the UK later this year.