The world’s largest coffee chain has struggled like other American restaurant groups to break into the Italian market. When it opened its first Italian coffee store in 2017, Starbucks said it was entering the Italian market “with humility and respect” and has since expanded cautiously. 25 shops throughout northern Italy.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he came up with the idea of adding olive oil to coffee after mixing a spoonful of the green-gold liquid with his own morning brew while in Sicily. “I was absolutely blown away by the unique taste and texture that was created,” he said in a release. It heralded the new olive oil range as a “transformational innovation” for coffee drinkers.
Starbucks baristas then boil or shake the oil in oatmeal before pouring the resulting mixture into an espresso coffee or cold brew (or two) to create the flavor described by its menu developers. “
Many on social media were skeptical about the combination. “Olive oil coffee! I’ve never seen an Italian drink their espresso with olive oil. pass” One answered.
Another called the idea un “Atrocity.” One person responded to the message with an emoji confused face
The coffee will debut in Italy before rolling out to Starbucks stores in Southern California and elsewhere internationally later this year, the company said.
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Described as “butter”, the Starbucks range includes three olive-oil-infused variations of the familiar hot and cold coffee drinks; Lattes, iced espressos and cold brews. Starbucks promises that customers who opt for the oil-infused soft brew will “taste a smooth infusion of Bartanna extra virgin olive oil with vanilla sweet cream foam, which slowly works its way through the drink to create a smooth, yet rich, texture.” menu.
The new range will use oil pressed from a variety of Sicilian olives called Castelvetrano – reminiscent of Starbucks’ dessert and some of its syrup options. “I think of all the buttery caramels we can mix with our coffee,” Starbucks beverage developer Amy Dilker said of the new flavor in a press release.
This isn’t the first time the beverage company has added oil to its coffee drinks — it’s the first time it’s advertised it as an ingredient in marketing campaigns. Oat milk, often used as a dairy-free alternative to coffee, already contains vegetable oil, for example — and then some Starbucks menus list sunflower oil as an ingredient in its non-dairy milk options.
Italian coffee drinkers are known for their traditional preferences: sipping a cappuccino before noon and preferring a quick shot of espresso in the afternoon, often taken while standing at a bar — prompting Starbucks to reshape its standard offering for the local market. The coffee company designed its Italian stores with a bar to bring customers together—reflecting Italian heritage—and created a bean blend designed to complement the tastes of Italian coffee drinkers.
It’s a poor tactic for American food chains to break into the crowded Italian food and beverage market, where consumers are content with what’s already there. In local menus. In 2022, Pizza giant Domino’s has announced the closure of its Italian franchise stores following poor sales. “Italians don’t like pineapple pizza” is the headline An Italian newspaper.