Why Did Starbucks Choose Partanna Olive Oil For The Oleato?

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Starbucks made headlines when select locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York began offering a brand-new brew: Oleato, which is Starbucks coffee infused with ... olive oil. The announcement elicited mixed reactions from fans on social media, with some customers eager to try the new blend and others less than enthusiastic, wondering how such a combination came about. 

In a February press release, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he drew inspiration in Milan, Italy, where locals often add a spoonful of olive oil to their morning coffee. When he tried it, Schultz said he discovered "a delicious and unexpected alchemy" that resulted in a "velvety" texture and "buttery flavor." Excited by the possibilities, he brought his ideas to the Starbucks beverage development team back in the U.S., who set out to find the perfect blend — and the perfect olive oil to replicate the taste and texture Schultz experienced in Milan. 

From hundreds of different types of olive oils, Principal beverage developer Amy Dilger — the tastemaker behind customer favorites like the Chestnut Praline Latte — chose Partanna

Partanna olive oil has a rich history

Partanna olive oil, so named after the town in the Trapani province of southwest Sicily, is an artisan olive oil producer growing highly praised Nocellara del Belice olives (also called Castelvetrano), coveted for their "vibrant and buttery flavor." The olives are hand-picked by fourth-generation members of the Asaro family in their Sicilian olive grove, cold-pressed within hours of being plucked from the vines and then harvested into blends created exclusively for Starbucks. 

In a press release, Starbucks beverage developer Amy Dilger praised the way Partanna's "buttery smooth richness combines so well with our coffee." And while some online retailers like Sam's Italian Deli say the olive oil has notes of "artichokes, almonds, and a peppery finish," Dilger says Oleato — a play on the Latin word for "olive" — reminds her of the "buttery caramels" used in other Starbucks drinks, such as the Caramel Macchiato. The Asaro family also describes its olive oil as having "very low acidity," making it extremely versatile. 

Starbucks plans to offer several different hot and cold options in the Oleato line, including an Iced Cortado with oat milk and orange bitters, a caffe latte, and a golden foam cold brew with vanilla syrup. 

The reviews are mixed

Will olive oil coffee be the next big drink trend, the way bulletproof coffee was before it? So far, Starbucks' Oleato is only available in a few select U.S. cities, but early reviews are divided. Replies on the company's March 27 tweet announcing the beverages ranged from "can't wait to try this" to "I honestly don't know about this one..." One commenter even speculated that the announcement was an early April Fool's joke. 

Those who've gotten the chance to try it were also split down the middle. Some reported that the new drinks are "surprisingly good" and "different, but tasty." Others, however, weren't as impressed. Several tasters found the appearance unappealing, as the olive oil appears to "float" on top of the drink and separate from other ingredients the longer it sits. The texture also seems divisive, with one sampler calling it "kind of gross." One tweeter even speculated that it could be "Starbucks' greatest downfall."  

One thing is for sure: Oleato's launch has certainly gotten people talking. If you're feeling adventurous, don't worry: Starbucks plans to launch the line nationally in the coming months.