Starbucks rolls out new drinks on a fairly regular basis, but the coffee giant just announced a slew of beverages that are a definite departure from their usual. Starbucks is releasing a line of Oleato coffees, which feature olive oil…in coffee.
Starbucks plans to roll out its Oleato coffees first in Milan, Italy, and then in other areas—including southern California. “Oleato represents the next revolution in coffee that brings together an alchemy of nature’s finest ingredients—Starbucks arabica coffee beans and Partanna cold pressed extra virgin olive oil,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks interim chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Today I feel just as inspired as I did 40 years ago. Oleato has opened our eyes to fresh new possibilities and a transformational way to enjoy our daily coffee.”
People are already asking questions on social media, and fair—this is definitely different. Here’s what you need to know about Oleato coffee, plus whether it’s healthy.
It actually came from Schultz, who said he was inspired to combine the two ingredients after learning that some Italians take a spoonful of olive oil each day. So, he decided to mix coffee and olive oil.
“I was absolutely stunned at the unique flavor and texture created when the Partanna extra virgin olive oil was infused into Starbucks coffee,” he said. “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.”
Starbucks describes its Oleato line as “the alchemy of Starbucks arabica coffee and premium Partanna extra virgin olive oil.” The reason for this surprising pairing, the brand says, is that it “creates an entirely new experience, taking on a depth and dimension that simply must be tasted to be believed.”
Oleato coffee is kind of a new concept. Technically, people have already been putting some form of fat in their coffee for ages, like milk and creamer, but this is different. Starbucks will roll out the following Oleato drinks in the U.S. in the spring:
On a basic level, it adds fat and (apparently) creates a more full-bodied flavor. It also adds 120 calories to each cup, points out Keri Gans, R.D., a New York City-based nutritionist and the author of The Small Change Diet.
Starbucks isn’t making any health claims with these new concoctions—instead, they’re focusing on the flavor. But olive oil has been linked with some health benefits, including a reduced risk for heart disease, making it natural to wonder if there are any health perks to drinking your coffee this way.
Holly S. Andersen, M.D., attending cardiologist and an associate professor of clinical medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, says she “will not be adding olive oil to my coffee.” She explains her reasoning this way: “Study after study shows that replacing butter and margarine with olive oil is a healthy thing to do. Numerous studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet which includes olive oil is one of the healthiest diets that we’ve studied.”
But Dr. Andersen points out that there is some disagreement about the health benefits of olive oil. “Some say it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent cardiovascular disease,” she says. “Others argue that, while it is less damaging than animal fats, it is still a high calorie fat that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.” Heating olive oil may also diminish some of its nutritional benefits, she says.
“It’s an interesting concept,” says Rigved Tadwalkar, M.D., a board certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “It’s true that we have good evidence on olive oil and cardiovascular benefits....On the other side, coffee can be heart-healthy.” But Dr. Tadwalkar says things get tricky when “garnishes and other elements” like syrups and oat milk are added to coffee. “I can’t say that this will specifically be heart healthy,” he says.
The drinks may have some nutritional value, though—they’re a “source of omega [fatty acids] from the olive oil, and fiber and protein from oat milk,” says Vanessa Rissetto, R.D., the CEO and co-founder of Culina Health. (Worth noting: Starbucks hasn’t publicly shared nutritional information for the new beverages.)
Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, points out that “olive oil has many science-back positives,” noting that oleuropein found in olive oil is “one of the best antioxidants found in nature.” Olive oil is also a monounsaturated fatty acid, “which is very different from any other fat in offer at Starbucks,” Keatley says, adding, “it’s a great way to improve the nutrition of your coffee without fundamentally changing your coffee.”
But the olive oil adds a significant amount of calories to each drink, and experts say it’s important to be aware of that. “Most people are not at a loss for adding olive oil to their diet, especially when cooking,” Gans says. “For some individuals adding it to their coffee will just result in extra calories.”
Rissetto recommends looking at these drinks as more than a beverage, noting, “you want to consider it as a snack, it’s probably fine.”
Oleato drinks will roll out in Starbucks locations in the U.S. in the spring.
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