Amid mixed reviews, Starbuck’s line of olive oil-infused coffee beverages is continuing to be rolled out across the United States.
The coffee beverages, made with extra virgin olive oil from Partanna, Sicily, will now be available in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Miami.
Oleato, the brainchild of former chief executive Howard Schultz is made by adding a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil – about 120 calories – into each cup of coffee. It is served with oat milk and comes in three flavors.See Also:Starbucks Could Become a Global Ambassador for EVOO, Experts Say
While the health benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil are well known, the combination of coffee and olive oil has reportedly caused indigestion and bowel problems for some.
“I’ve only tried the cold brew so far. I thought it was surprisingly good but felt suuuuper heavy in my stomach,” wrote a reviewer on Reddit, an online forum.
Registered dietitian and nutritionist, Erin Palinski-Wade told ABC News that these issues might come from high levels of fat and caffeine consumed simultaneously.
“If you combined high fat in a meal or in a beverage along with coffee, which already stimulates the bowels, that combination could cause cramping,” Palinski-Wade said. “It can cause increased mobility in the colon and therefore have that laxative effect.”
At 380 calories per serving (19 percent of daily intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet), a Grande Oleato Cold Brew has more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger (298 calories).
While olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is associated with lower risks of heart disease, Duane Mellor, an associate dean of public engagement at Aston Medical School, said there is “no proof of any medical benefits to adding olive oil to coffee.”
Regarding the flavor value extra virgin olive oil adds to the beverage, a review of Oleato on BuzzFeed News came to mixed conclusions.
“What I was surprised to see was the olive oil floating on the top of my drink like the aftermath of an oil spill in a harbor,” Fjolla Arifi wrote. “I took a sip and was met with an overwhelming taste of Partanna, although my drink only had one tablespoon of olive oil, supposedly infused into the oat milk.”
Meanwhile, TikTok influencer Rachel Cheng was slightly more positive in her review. “I definitely would say it was worth a try and was a fun little treat to break up my usual order,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It felt a little heavier than what I’d usually get, but I remember how the quality of the olive oil makes me feel better about that.”
Oleato has also had other positive reviews, with customers describing it as “super rich, creamy, and nutty in flavor, and not as sweet as the other drinks in Starbucks’ range.”
Another customer noted: “While I got some slight nutty notes with every sip, I wouldn’t have been able to tell there was olive oil in the drink if I hadn’t known.”
Starbucks chief executive Laxman Narasimhan has described the beverage launch as “highly successful,” calling it “one of the top five product launches in the last five years in terms of brand awareness and excitement.”
After Oleato’s May 2023 debut in Paris, the food critic of Konbini, a culture and lifestyle magazine catering to young people, attempted to recreate the recipe at home and was disappointed with the result.
“Frankly, I like experimenting, and I’m not a coffee purist, but this will be a big no,” he wrote. “In my homemade recipe, nothing is balanced, the olive oil brings out the acidity of the coffee and the bitterness of the hazelnut, and I won’t go much further than a few sips. Verdict, for me, olive oil, it will remain in the vinaigrette.”
However, Christian Gurria, Starbucks’ director in France, agreed with Narasimhan’s verdict and described the market debut as “a great opportunity to invite coffee lovers in the Paris region to taste our latest innovation.”