Starbucks just launched olive oil coffee in Italy, but S’pore’s had its own version since the 1930s

Ever heard of Kopi Gu You?

Natalie Teo |
February 26, 2023, 11:29 am

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, has launched a range of olive oil-infused drinks in Italy.

According to the Starbucks website, CEO Howard Schultz was inspired by his travels in Sicily, Italy where he was introduced to the custom of taking a spoonful of olive oil each day.

He then tried mixing the oil with his coffee, and found that he was “stunned at the unique flavour and texture created”.

“In both hot and cold coffee beverages, what it produced was an unexpected, velvety, buttery flavour that enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.”

The new range is named Oleato, a play on the Latin word for “olive” and Italian word meaning “with oil”.

Here are the three drinks that will be available at Starbucks stores in Italy:

Oleato™ Caffè Latte

Image via Starbucks.

Made with Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast and Partanna extra virgin olive oil steamed with oat milk.

Oleato™ Iced Shaken Espresso

Image via Starbucks.

Made with Starbucks Blonde Roast Espresso, hazelnut syrup and oat milk shaken with Partanna extra virgin olive oil and ice.

Oleato™ Golden Foam™ Cold Brew

Image via Starbucks.

Cold Brew coffee capped with a layer of “Golden Foam” made by infusing Partanna extra virgin olive oil with vanilla sweet cream foam.

Mixed reviews

The drinks were met with approval from Italian customers, one of whom said that the coffee “went down smoother”, reported The Guardian.

People on the internet however, were a little more sceptical about the offering.

Starbucks’ unlikely success in Italy

As of November 2022, Starbucks has opened 18 stores in Italy, a market which took them 47 years to enter.

In a country known for its purist coffee culture, Forbes reported that “many aspects of American coffee culture, and by extension Starbucks, befuddle them.”

For example, Starbucks prizes speed and efficiency in serving customers, while Italians go to coffee bars for leisure and to chat with the baristas.

Due to their intensive efforts to localise, The Takeout reported, Starbucks was nevertheless able to succeed where other American companies such as Domino’s have failed.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan, Italy. Image via Starbucks.

“It was designed to feel less like an American Starbucks and more like an Italian coffee shop, using local materials and craftsmen.”

“The food is also supplied by local producers so that the fare blends in with similar offerings throughout the city.”

Not bad for a chain that triggered calls for a boycott back in 2015 when they first announced their plans to expand to Italy.

Sounds familiar?

The idea of oil in your morning cup of joe may be surprising, even off-putting to some.

But this combination isn’t exactly new.

Remember bulletproof coffee, a high-fat drink popular with those on low-carb diets?

Made with coffee, butter and a Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil such as coconut oil, the drink is touted to give drinkers more energy and improve gut health.

But even before there was bulletproof coffee, Singapore had Kopi Gu You, a drink that dates back to the 1930s.

Literally translated to “coffee butter” in Hokkien, it is made by adding a slab of butter and condensed milk to coffee.

Image via Jonathan Tee/Facebook

The butter is said to give the coffee a smoother, nutty finish, and drink has even earned a mention in the Michelin Guide.

While it used to be commonly served in Singapore’s coffeeshops, it can now only be found in a few older, traditional coffee shops like Tong Ah Eating House on Keong Saik Road and Heap Seng Leong Kopitiam on North Bridge Road.

These days, butter is introduced earlier in the process by roasting the coffee beans with butter, margarine or lard.

According to the Michelin Guide, this process caramelises the outer layers and helps to round out the rougher taste of the Robusta beans used in local coffeeshops.

Top image via Starbucks and Jonathan Tee/Facebook.

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