MILAN (AP) — Putting olive oil in coffee isn’t a tradition in Italy, but that hasn’t stopped interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz from launching a line of drinks that do just that in Milan, the city that inspired the empire of his coffee.
The coffee-olive oil concoction—which echoes a keto-inspired trend of adding butter to coffee, only with a sweet twist—has both amused and intrigued Italians.
Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, called mixing olive oil with coffee “a strange combination” but said it was reserving judgment, having not yet tasted the drinks.
He praised the essential ingredient of Italian cuisine, not just a seasoning. The magazine also noted the health benefits of drinking extra virgin olive oil, which some Italians routinely do straight from the bottle.
“Did we need coffee with extra virgin olive oil and syrups? Maybe yes, maybe not,” wrote the magazine’s Michela Becchi. But the opportunity to promote Italian excellence is valuable, he added.
Italy’s association of olive oil producers, ASSITOL, welcomed the “bold innovation”, saying the range of drinks could “regenerate the image of olive oil, especially among young people”. The association promotes the addition of olive oil to cocktails.
Martina Lunardi, a cultural mediation student, stuck to her standard cappuccino on a recent visit to Starbucks, but said she wasn’t offended by the olive oil combinations and might even try one someday.
“Anyway, I know where to get a regular cup of coffee,” Lunardi said.
Schultz came up with adding olive oil to coffee after visiting an olive oil producer in Sicily and teased the idea as a game changer on his latest earnings call. It worked with an in-house coffee drink maker to find recipes, the international coffee chain said.
Schultz presided over the launch of “Oleato” — which means “oiled” in Italian — last week on the eve of Milan Fashion Week, with a Lizzo show for an invite-only audience at the company’s Milan Roastery. The drinks will be released in Southern California this spring and in Japan, the Middle East and Britain later this year.
La Stampa newspaper in Turin tested four of the drinks, giving them scores of 6.5 to 7.5 on a scale of 10. It noted that the only hot drink on the menu, a version of caffe latte, “has a strong flavor that leaves pleasant taste in the mouth. Grade: 7.”
“The (positive) feeling is that Oleato could be something to drink all year round, but mainly that it could be really tasty in the summer,” La Stampa said because most are served with ice.
Tourists flocking to the Milan Roastery are enticed to try the drinks by placards around the shop and a special insert menu advertising the five-drink range, which ranges from €5.50 to €14 (5.85 to 14.85 dollars) for a vodka martini version. .
“It’s good,” said Benedicte Hagen, a Norwegian who recently moved to Milan to pursue a modeling career. “I’m not much of a coffee fan, so I like to try drinks like this.”
He was drinking Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew, which includes vanilla bean syrup, and said he couldn’t really taste the oil. However, he admitted to asking the barista to add a shot of chocolate to make the drink even sweeter and would have added caramel if available.
“It’s not that random,” Hagen decided.
Kaya Cupial’s Oleato Iced Cortado, meanwhile, was in a pretty V-shaped glass and garnished with an orange peel. It’s made with oat milk infused with olive oil, demerara syrup and a dash of orange bitters.
“It’s like regular coffee, but with orange. It’s not possible,” noted the 26-year-old from Warsaw, Poland, who was traveling with a group of friends. They also ordered the Golden Foam Cold Brew along with a couple of regular cappuccinos.
It is not the first time that Italy has inspired Schulz. He acknowledges his debt to the Milan coffee bar, which he discovered during a trip to Italy in 1983, as his inspiration for building the now global coffee chain.
Schultz waited until 2018 to bring Starbucks to Italy, knowing he was treading on sacred coffee. Italians usually take their coffee standing up at a bar, chatting with friends or the barista for a few minutes, before moving on with their day. It is not something to be nurtured.
Since then, Starbucks has opened around 20 stores in northern and central Italy. The Milan Roastery is often full, while other locations in the city have shifted due to the pandemic.
(tags to be translated) Italy