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Commentary Food/Drink Review

Say yes to the Oleato

I took the tiniest sip, expecting the worst: the smell of motor oil encapsulated in liquid form, or perhaps something akin to the kitchen oils my friend and I decided to take shots of on New Year’s Eve to celebrate a sober holiday. But the liquid that touched my lips was far from foul. Surprised, I handed it to my girlfriend. 

“You want me to…try it?” I give her a subtle nod. “I’m scared.” She sips it cautiously, and confusion passes over her face. “That’s not bad! Actually, it’s really good.”

The second time I ordered my newfound adoration, I saw the barista whip out the recipe cards. Curious, I asked if the coffee-olive oil concoction was uncommon, to which she replied that this was the first Oleato she’d made in the three weeks since its release. I was shocked. Students usually flood to the campus Starbucks after the release of a new drink, especially a drink with the amount of marketing Starbucks has awarded the Oleato.

Thus is this drink’s curse. A pretentious name and American pickiness hinder the Oleato from making the debut it deserves. Most students won’t even give it a chance, probably assuming, like I did, that it would taste like a gas station or a hippie Mediterranean power smoothie. Therefore, I’ve made it my mission to blast any stereotypes you might have about this odd but surprisingly tasty drink. 

To start, the coffee is not topped with a layer of yellow goo. And no, the Oleato does not taste like oil. Take it from me — you can feel this beverage’s signature ingredient more than you can taste it (unless, for some inexplicable reason, you’ve ever taken shots of kitchen oil). Even if you’re gifted with such a perceptive tongue, the taste isn’t overbearing. Despite being nearly tasteless, the olive oil smoothes the coffee and bestows it with texture akin to your aunt’s triple-creamed morning brew — without all the added lactose. If, like me, you love Starbucks’ nitro cold brews, you’ll appreciate the texture of both the Oleato shaken espresso and the Oleato latté. And if, also like me, you struggle with milk issues, your gut will appreciate that the latter is dairy-free.

The Oleato is made with cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil from the Italian company Partanna. Starbucks’ website says that Howard Schultz, the company’s interim CEO, decided to add olive oil to his coffee while vacationing in Sicily in 2022, where taking a spoonful of olive oil is a daily custom. About a year ago, the company debuted the drink in Italy, where it would presumably be most welcomed. So, while the drink isn’t authentically Mediterranean, it still represents international influence making its way to America.

The Oleato makes me wonder what other coffee businesses — or any food businesses, for that matter — are holding out on internationally inspired recipes because they fear resistance from the public. Americans certainly have a reputation for pickiness. Perhaps, the Oleato is the tip of an iceberg of delicious, international-inspired recipes waiting for their spotlight. Most fast-food and fast-drink chains could certainly benefit from a little diversity in their offerings. 

Rather than stick to the same old lattes, next time you’re at Starbucks, I encourage you to try the Oleato. Omitting the flat white, it’s just as worthy of your dining dollars as its predecessors.


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