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Starbucks brings its olive oil-infused coffee to a skeptical U.S. market

The Seattle-based coffee giant is debuting its Oleato line in select Starbucks Reserve Roasteries on Thursday and then additional locations in Seattle and Los Angeles on Monday. Consumers remain skeptical.
Starbucks Oleato
Starbucks new olive oil-infused coffee will make its U.S. debut Thursday. / Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Starbucks customers in Seattle, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will soon be able to try the company’s latest drink line, the olive oil-infused Oleato, the company said on Wednesday.

It will face a public skeptical about the combination of olive oil and coffee. Oleato features Starbucks coffee infused with cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, which the company boasted would be a “transformational innovation in coffee” and which now-former Interim CEO Howard Schultz declared it was “unlike anything I had experienced.”

The product made its debut in Italy last month where the idea of olive oil in coffee “provoked amusement and curiosity,” according to the Associated Press.

The company said that it will be available at Starbucks Reserve locations in Chicago, Seattle and New York City on Thursday, as will the company’s original location in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Locations in Seattle and Los Angeles will start serving the beverages on Monday.

Starbucks is offering three types of beverages at most locations, a Caffe Latte featuring olive oil steamed with oat milk; an Iced Shaken Espresso featuring olive oil-infused oat milk and sweetened, and a Golden Foam Cold Brew featuring olive oil-infused cold foam. Starbucks Reserve locations will also feature an Iced Cortado and an Espresso Martini.  

Early reviews have been mixed. "The new Starbucks Oleato is terrible,” the New Yorker wrote earlier this month. Insider, however, called the iced drinks “surprisingly delicious despite the unappetizing, clumpy residue on top.” Food & Wine, which got an early taste of the product, was “surprised and delighted by how well the two flavors complemented each other.”

Still, for the product to become the “game changer” that Schultz insisted it will become, Starbucks will have to get past the odd-sounding nature of adding olive oil to coffee. At the least, enough people will have to rave about it to generate the type of word-of-mouth that will convince others to give it a try.

On Twitter, some customers called the prospect of olive oil in coffee “absolutely disgusting” or “gross” and one user who said they tried the cold brew in Italy said it was “the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.” On Reddit, numerous customers expressed doubt about its potential success. One suggested it would not last one month.

There were also questions about how well Oleato will work with Starbucks’ customization culture. Many customers like to add different flavors to their beverages and they might not work well with the olive oil infusion.

It remains to be seen how customers will ultimately react. But we’ll know that answer starting Thursday.

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