Olive oil in coffee? The idea is a curiosity in Italy

Adding olive oil to coffee isn’t a tradition in Italy, but that hasn’t stopped Howard Schultz, interim CEO of Starbucks, from launching a series of drinks that are currently being served in Milan, the city that inspired his coffeehouse empire.

Similar to the Keto trend of adding butter to coffee, but with a sugary twist, the combination of coffee and olive oil has sparked curiosity and questioning among Italians.

Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, called the combination an “interesting combination” but said it reserved judgment, saying it had not tried the drinks yet.

However, he praised the introduction of oil—a staple in Italian kitchens—as a main ingredient, rather than a mere seasoning. The magazine also noted the health benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil, which some Italians routinely drink straight from the bottle.

“Did we need coffee with extra virgin olive oil and syrup? Maybe yes, maybe no,” writes Michaela Beach, a contributor to the magazine. The opportunity to promote Italian excellence, he adds, is valuable.

Italy’s olive oil producers’ association, ASSITOL, welcomed the “bold innovation”, asserting that the new beverage line could “revive the image of olive oil, especially among young people”. The association promotes the addition of olive oil to cocktails.

Martina Lonardi, a cultural mediation student, stuck to her regular cappuccino during a recent visit to Starbucks, but says she wasn’t offended by the olive oil pairings and wouldn’t rule out trying one day. “Anyway, I know where to get a normal cup of coffee,” explains Lonardi.

Schultz came up with the idea of ​​adding olive oil to coffee after visiting an olive oil producer in Sicily. According to the International Series, Schultz worked with his own coffee beverage creator to develop the new recipes.

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Schultz himself presided over the launch of the beverage line “Oleato”—which means “oiled” in Italian—last week, on the eve of Milan Fashion Week, with Lizzo showing off to an invite-only audience at the company’s Milan roasting plant. The new beverage will launch this spring in Southern California and later this year in Britain, Japan and the Middle East.

Turin newspaper La Stampa tested four drinks, assigning them ratings between 6.5 and 7.5 on a scale of 10. It noted that the only hot drink in the new line, a latte version, “has a strong undertone that leaves a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth.” Rating: 7.

“The (positive) feeling is that Oleato can be something to drink at any time of the year, but it can be really tasty especially in the summer,” La Stampa adds, because most of the new drinks are served on the rocks.

Tourists crowding the company’s Roastery plant in Milan tend to try the new brews with signs around the store and special menu listings advertising a variety of the five drinks, ranging from €5.50 to €14 (€5.85). Priced at $14.85. The latter for the vodka martini version.

“It’s a good thing,” says Benedict Hagen, a Norwegian who recently moved to Milan to pursue modeling. “I’m not a huge fan of coffee, so I love trying drinks like this.”

Hagen was sampling an Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew that had vanilla syrup in it, and admitted he couldn’t tell the flavor of the oil. However, he acknowledged that he had asked “barista” – a word in Italian that identifies the person responsible for preparing or serving all kinds of drinks to the public, but which in English refers to a person who prepares or serves coffee and other hot beverages, specializing in quality coffee drinks – to add A little chocolate to sweeten the drink more. He said he would have added caramel if it was available.

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“It’s not that random,” Hagen said.

For her part, the Oleato Iced Cortado ordered by Kaya Cupial came in a beautiful V-shaped glass garnished with orange peel. It’s made with oat milk mixed with olive oil, brown sugar syrup, and a little orange bitters.

“It tastes like regular coffee, but with orange. It’s not as strong,” says the 26-year-old from Warsaw, Poland, who was visiting a group of friends. They also ordered a “Golden Foam Cold Brew” with two regular cappuccinos.

This isn’t the first time Schultz has looked for inspiration in Italy. He credits a café in Milan, which he discovered during a trip to Italy in 1983, as inspiring him to build the now-global chain of coffee shops.

Schultz waited until 2018 to bring Starbucks to Italy, knowing he was walking on the ground where coffee is sacred. Italians often drink their coffee in a cafeteria, chatting with friends or the manager for a few minutes, before continuing on with their day.

Since then, Starbucks has opened about 20 coffee shops in northern and central Italy. The company’s roastery plant in Milan is often full, while other coffee shops in the city have moved in in the wake of the pandemic.

Myrtle Frost

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