The Fascinating Origin Story Behind Starbucks Oleato

What will Starbucks come up with next? Nobody knows, but there's a good chance it'll happen sooner than later and an above-average chance of it being tasty. That's based on the continued success of America's coffee giant, which cradled at least 35,000 stores in its worldwide family tree in 2022 and anticipates expanding that number to around 45,000 before 2026.

Starbucks so far hasn't shown itself to be a hasty product developer, instead spending lots of time sourcing and testing for adherence to things like sustainability, seed-to-cup supply chains, and purpose-driven growth. New beverages have at the very least been through some thought processes, assumably including the unexpected flavor combo in the Starbucks Oleato line of drinks. It appears to have been born on a whim, or at least a "what if," but you can bet it wasn't willy-nilly tossed onto Starbucks menus.

Like the origin story of Starbucks itself, Oleato started with a now-famous man named Howard Schultz sipping coffee in Italy. His java dream and coffee empire, Starbucks, had long been established since the first fateful Italian trip in 1983 — yet here he was again, brainstorming on Italian soil. As the story goes, Schultz was this time visiting Sicily, an autonomous island region of Italy. Someone had the good grace of revealing the Mediterranean practice of slurping a daily spoonful of olive oil — and the coffee-meister naturally "went there" in his brain: Why not mix olive oil and coffee?

Oleato is still an infant but growing

The Oleato beverages at Starbucks, which first launched in Italy in 2023, are basically a marriage of coffee and Partanna extra virgin olive oil that comes in several presentations. The drinks are now available throughout the company's U.S. stores, including company-owned and licensed locations, as well as in some international markets such as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. If Schultz's intuition has once again paid off, coffee lovers are sipping Oleatos in countless coffee shops and when dashing about college campuses, strolling grocery aisles, and maneuvering busy airports.

In a Starbucks Stories revelation, Schultz explains his shock over the flavor and texture transformation occurring when coffee gets infused with olive oil. He then describes the sensation and how it plays out in Starbucks drinks: "In both hot and cold coffee beverages, what it produced was an unexpected, velvety, buttery flavor that enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate." That sweet, buttery taste derives from the inclusion of Nocellara del Belice olives in the oil, also known as Castelvetrano olives.

Depending on location, the beverage line now includes such options as an Oleato caffe latte oat milk; the cold-drink Oleato Golden Foam with iced shaken espresso, toffeenut, and vanilla sweet cream; and four colorful Golden Foam customizations. Roastery and Reserve locations, including the Milan Roastery and others in the U.S., have their own Oleato incarnations featuring the Starbucks Reserve Espresso.