Coffee with olive oil? Starbucks enriches flavour and texture with EVOO in Europe

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Starbucks is collaborating with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil company Partanna on the Oleato line. Image source: Starbucks
Starbucks is collaborating with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil company Partanna on the Oleato line. Image source: Starbucks

Related tags Starbucks Olive oil

A ‘velvety smooth’ new coffee experience has landed in Italy, where Starbucks is serving up lattes, cold brews and espressos with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

An unexpected combination – arabica coffee and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – has been added to menu boards at Starbucks stores in Italy. Sold under the Oleato brand, the coffee major says the result is ‘velvety smooth’ and ‘delicately sweet’, bringing a ‘new flavour and texture’ to consumers.

The company did not disclose at which stage of the coffee making process the olive oil is added, nor whether the decision to include extra virgin olive oil – a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet – in its beverages was informed by nutritional science.

Rather, the company suggests Oleato was born out of a recent visit to Sicily by Starbucks founder and interim CEO Howard Schultz, who observed that locals consumed a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil daily.

“We are excited to bring an unexpected alchemy of Starbucks finest arabica coffee and oat dairy alternative infused with exactly 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, transforming the coffee ritual to offer a velvety smooth, deliciously lush new coffee experience,” ​a Starbucks spokesperson told this publication.

‘Buttery, round flavours and chocolatey notes’

Starbucks is collaborating with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil company Partanna on the Oleato line, although details around this partnership were not disclosed.

Amy Dilger, principal beverage developer for Starbucks describes Partanna’s olives as ‘uniquely nutty’ with ‘slightly sweet flavours’: “Think of that rich smoothness of a buttery caramel, it’s a natural complement to our coffee.”

Infusing Starbucks coffee with Partanna yields a ‘velvety smooth rich texture’, she explained, “with the buttery, round flavours imparted by the olive oil perfectly pairing with the soft, chocolatey notes of the coffee”.

This ‘textural experience’, Dilger added, is imparted in both Oleato’s hot and cold formats. The range includes Oleato Caffè Latte, Golden Foam Cold Brew, Iced Shaken Espresso, Iced Cortado, Golden Foam Espresso Martini, and the Oleato Deconstructed – espresso and olive oil infused with passionfruit cold foam.

Spotlight on nutrition

Although Starbucks has not suggested a link between olive oil and potential health benefits, this area is well researched.

Olive oil is most associated with the Mediterranean diet, which itself is recognised for preventing disease and ageing. This last year alone has seen a wealth of new research come to light.

1_Oleato_Golden_Foam_Cold_Brew_FULL
Starbucks plans to roll out the Oleato range around the world. Image source: Starbucks

Out of the University of Seville, research has focused on the cancer- and Alzheimer-preventing qualities of oleic acid (the principal component of olive oil), as well as its associations with lower cholesterol levels.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Barcelona found that consumption of extra olive oil during pregnancy increases the level of antioxidants in breast milk and in offspring, and work from the University of South Australia suggests the Mediterranean diet may also help overcome infertility.

Comparing the nutritional profile of Starbucks’ Oleato range with its classic range suggests the Oleato line, as expected, has higher calorie content, as well as total fat and saturated fat. Oleato Caffè Latte with Oat Dairy Alternative in Grande beverage size has 336 calories, 23.4g total fat, and 2.9g saturated fat.

Starbucks did not provide the macronutrient profile of a standard Caffè Latte with Oat Dairy Alternative, but according to the company website, in Canada a 473ml size has 190 calories, 8g total fat, and 0.5g saturated fat. FoodNavigator acknowledges these products do not offer a like-for-like comparison, as beverage size and beverage/oat milk composition may differ.

Of the Oleato range nutritional information provided, the Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew in Grande beverage size has the highest calorie content with 397kcal, 300 of which come from fat. Total fat for this beverage is 34.2g and saturated fat,
11.4g.

International expansion

Although launched in Italy last month, Starbucks plans to roll out the Oleato range around the world.

“Over the next year, Starbucks Oleato will be thoughtfully introduced in select cities around the world, including in the UK and Middle East,” ​we were told.

“We’re excited to share more about the regional expressions of Starbucks Oleato for customers soon.”

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‘Update on Anti-Inflammatory Molecular Mechanisms Induced by Oleic Acid’
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15010224
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Food Chemistry
‘Nutrition during pregnancy and lactation: ‘New evidence for the vertical transmission of extra virgin olive oil phenolic compounds in rats’
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.133211
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