Coffee giant Starbucks is known for its unusual flavour combos. Some become hits; take its pumpkin spice latte, which sends fans into a frenzy each autumn.
Yet others, such as its latest offering, are more divisive. Glug of olive oil in your coffee, anyone?
Introduced in Italy earlier this year, and available from this month in the UK, Starbucks’ Oleato range (oliato means ‘oiled’ in Italian) combines arabica coffee with extra virgin olive oil.
There are three drinks to choose from: a latte made with oat milk, a shot of espresso and a shot of oil (from £4.65); cold brew coffee with vanilla syrup and a sweetened olive oil foam (from £5.65); and an iced shaken espresso with oil, ‘toffeenut’ syrup and oat milk (from £5.45).
Extra virgin olive oil, full of healthy fats, is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing various diseases.
Starbucks is known for its unusual flavour combos, but the new range of coffee drinks containing olive oil, including a latte made with oat milk, a shot of espresso and a shot of oil (from £4.65) and cold brew coffee with vanilla syrup and a sweetened olive oil foam (from £5.65), is proving divisive
Extra virgin olive oil, full of healthy fats, is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing various diseases
And adding a splash of it to your morning brew creates a ‘velvety smooth texture, while the buttery flavours of the oil pair perfectly with the chocolatey notes of our arabica coffee beans,’ insists Alex Rayner, general manager at Starbucks UK.
I am a huge fan of olive oil and coffee, and consume both daily. But I’m fairly sceptical about the prospect of ruining two delicious things by mixing them together. Could I be convinced?
The first offering I try is the cold brew. I can taste the fresh, grassy flavour of olive oil in the pleasantly creamy cold foam, but the vanilla-syrup coffee underneath soon washes it away. It’s refreshing but neither the coffee nor the oil can shine when masked by sweet syrup.
The Oleato range, available in the UK from this month, also features an iced shaken espresso with oil, ‘toffeenut’ syrup and oat milk (from £5.45)
Next up, the latte. Though I prefer my coffee black most of the time, I will make an exception for a rich latte at breakfast.
But why is this one with oat milk, I ask? ‘The flavour works better,’ I’m told, which I’m not convinced by, since, in my opinion, oat milk is like drinking watery porridge.
Instead, I suspect they picked oat milk (which contains canola oil) to stop the drink separating into unappetising layers, as it would with water-based cow’s milk.
I take a sip and immediately dislike it. It’s very oaty and has no detectable flavour of olive oil —though that may be the point.
Finally I try the iced shaken espresso, which I’m told has been the most popular so far. I can actually taste the olive oil — and even see it on the top, where I let it settle into an oily slick — which gives a spicy edge (the sign of a good quality olive oil), surprisingly pleasant with the bitter coffee. But it’s tarnished by the sickly syrup.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best things you can eat for your cardiovascular health, a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, which protect our red blood cells from damage. But registered nutritionist Mays Al-Ali warns that the addition of sweeteners and oat milk undermines the health benefits.
Some experts claim adding oil to coffee helps slow down the absorption of caffeine, too, meaning those sensitive to it feel less jittery
‘Oat milk is made by breaking down raw oats and mixing them with water. When oats are broken down, a sugar called maltose is formed. So putting 350ml of oat milk in your latte means adding almost a tablespoon of sugar to your drink.’
Instead, she suggests adding a shot of quality extra virgin olive oil to freshly brewed black coffee.
I give it a go and you know what? It’s not bad. I can taste both flavours and, weirdly, they make for an elegant pairing. Some experts claim adding oil to coffee helps slow down the absorption of caffeine, too, meaning those sensitive to it feel less jittery.
But I can think of more enjoyable ways to consume extra virgin olive oil, such as drizzled onto pasta or with steak — far tastier than adding it to your morning espresso.