For all its problems, there is perhaps no better bellwether of trends than Starbucks. It’s where pistachio is popping off, where cake pops came to the masses, and of course where PSL continues its reign. Now, Starbucks has introduced a drink featuring a flavor that’s been on the rise elsewhere, auguring our culinary future. Say hello to olive oil coffee, and to olive oil officially jumping the shark.
In February, Starbucks introduced its “Oleato” line of drinks, each infused with a spoonful of Partanna extra-virgin olive oil, to its stores in Italy. Starbucks refers to the drinks as a “revolutionary new coffee ritual,” with olive oil being steamed, shaken, or blended into both the Oleato drinks and, in some markets, into any drink customers want. The Oleato line is currently only available in Italy, but it will be rolling out to stores in the U.S. on Thursday, March 23, and Japan and the UK later this year. As CNN reports, “With some drinks, you can see a slippery sheen of oil in the cup, and you don’t even have to squint.” Delectable.
This isn’t the first time adding fat to coffee has been a thing, and with the ongoing popularity of the keto diet this almost seems like a logical next step. But whereas Bulletproof Coffee at least involves a dairy product, there is no real tradition of olive oil and coffee going together. Instead, Starbucks says it’s an outgrowth of interim CEO and noted union opposer Howard Schultz’s desire to bring the Italian coffee experiences to the U.S. But this time, he was inspired by olive oil:
“After being introduced to the Mediterranean custom of taking a spoonful of olive oil each day, he soon began enjoying a spoonful of Partanna extra virgin olive oil as part of his daily ritual in addition to his morning coffee, and soon he had the idea of trying the two together. What he discovered was a delicious and unexpected alchemy of Starbucks coffee beverages infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil.”
Aside from the questionable pairing of olive oil and oat milk, which is already made with oil, we probably could have seen this coming. A lot of people are being inspired by olive oil these days. It has become the it condiment, with small brands promising quality, extra-virgin olive oil from Spain or Italy or California, in design-forward packaging and ready to drizzle on everything.
And lately olive oil has been oozing into just about everything. Just last week one of my local bars added an olive oil-washed Old Fashioned to the menu, and Goop is now suggesting starting your meal with olive oil shots. With the Starbucks line, though, olive oil is poised to jump from ingredient to flavor, which means it’ll probably continue to appear in places it has no business being until we all get sick of a perfectly good thing.
Update: March 22, 2023, 12:15 p.m.: This article was updated to include launch dates for the Oleato line in the U.S.