Nearly five years after it opened its first locations in Italy, Starbucks wants Italians to try something new: coffee with olive oil in it. The company says interim CEO Howard Schultz was traveling in Sicily last year when, inspired by the "Mediterranean custom of taking a spoonful of olive oil each day," he put extra-virgin olive oil in his morning coffee and discovered a "delicious and unexpected alchemy." He said the olive oil added an "unexpected, velvety, buttery flavor." The company rolled out its Oleato line of olive oil-infused coffee drinks at an event at its flagship store in Milan on Wednesday. Elisabetta Povoledo at the New York Times says there was a "steady line" of customers, though Starbucks barred her from asking them what they thought of the drinks.
The Oleato options in Milan included a caffe latte with oat milk and olive oil. There was also a "deconstructed" version with lemon juice and an "Espresso Martini" with vodka, reports Reuters, which was able to speak to customers in Milan. "It's a strange idea," said 20-year-old Nicole Molinari, "but there is something different about it and in my opinion it could appeal a lot more to foreigners than Italians." Stefania Battagli, 22, said there was too much olive oil in her coffee, but she liked how the flavors worked together and how the "milk and the oil can both be tasted distinctly."
With 23 stores, Starbucks has a relatively small presence in Italy. Many Italians say they doubt the Oleato drinks will catch on, though bar owners near the Milan Starbucks told the Guardian it could have a chance because Italians aren't as tradition-bound as they once were. "We are willing to experiment much more," said Marcello Mannile, owner of the Rose by Mary bar. "If you still want to find authentic Italian coffee, you must go outside the big cities." Starbucks says the beverages will be launched in Southern California this spring and in "select markets" in such countries as the UK and Japan later this year. (Read more Starbucks stories.)