Why are people putting olive oil in coffee? Trend explained and what Scottish baristas think of Starbucks new drink

This year Starbucks started adding olive oil to a range of coffees. Find out why, and what independent business owners think of the move.

Published 19th May 2023
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

In what sounds like a social media-inspired move, you may soon be drinking olive oil in coffee. Here we find out why, and if you'll be able to try this in Scotland.

Why is olive oil being added to coffee?

Essentially it's to create a smoother texture to oatmilk-based coffees. Starbucks employees will shake or steam extra virgin olive oil with oat milk, and then add to the coffee - from lattes to cold brew.

The Starbucks Oleato coffees include premium Partanna extra virgin olive oil to, the team say "create an entirely new experience, taking on a depth and dimension that simply must be tasted to be believed."

oil in coffee
Picture: Starbucks

These coffees debuted in Italy in February and are now available in select Starbucks stores in London, Paris, Japan and the United States.

While this hasn't gone mainstream in Scotland yet, it is one of a handful of bizarre drinks trends that have popped up this year - including using sushi rice in cocktails, and cheese in cocktails.

Scottish coffee business have their say on oil in coffee

If you're keen to try an Oleato coffee, the question on your lips will be, are they available anywhere in Scotland? We asked some Scottish coffee business owners their thoughts on this new trend, an if they'd be trying it out.

Robi Lambie, founder of Cairngorm Coffee explained that you won't be seeing it in his stores anytime soon as he sees it as a fad.

He said: "I think that the general consensus for specialty coffee shops is that they want to respect coffee in its most basic form.

"This is why single origin coffee is largely adopted in this sector to encourage customers to taste the diversity of flavour that coffee on its own can express.

"To this end, I think that olive oil in coffee will be a fad which isn't likely to gain a huge amount of traction in our sector but could well be something that people are open minded to try once.

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"I'm happy to be proved wrong, but for me, it sounds a bit strange!

"As a small business ourselves, we are always excited to see what Starbucks and the other large chains do with coffee. These companies can afford to put aside enormous salaries for Research and Development that we couldn’t dream of, and it would be naive to not watch with interest when they do unusual things."

Lynsey Harley, founder of Modern Standard, specialty roaster and café in Edinburgh thinks that the trend could be associated with health benefits, but she's not so sure, saying: "currently the new trend of olive oil in coffee could be linked to people thinking that it is associated with good health.

"When the new coffees are being served in Italy, they are made with oat milk, which actually has a rapeseed oil in it to give it that creamy texture, so oil upon oil I can’t imagine is very good.

"When the trend makes it over here to the UK, I would say, try it with regular milk and an earthy coffee from Sumatra rather than something delicate like that from Ethiopia, as the olive oil would overwhelm the coffee itself.

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"I think we can all agree, however there are better ways to consume olive oil so you won’t be finding an olive coffee at Modern Standard."

oil in coffee
Picture: Robi Lambie, co-owner of Cairngorm Coffee Roasters

Lisa Lawson, founder of Glasgow's Dear Green Coffee is a bit more open to trying this new drink, saying: "I had heard of this new coffee beverage from comments online by Specialty Coffee industry professionals, but not until I properly looked into it did I discover that it is named the Oleato.

"The name seems to perfectly slide onto any coffee menu! To me the Oleato is an interesting new concept in coffee beverage preparation but not an overly surprising one given the recent Orange Juice Espresso trend or the Dalgona trend during lockdown.

"I have yet to experience the Oleato, my thoughts from a sensory perspective are that I expect the addition of olive oil will contribute to the sensation of body and viscosity on the palate.

"I'm sure that in small measures, an olive oil which isn't overly powerful in flavour would add the same weight and texture to a coffee beverage as full fat milk does in a latte or flat white.

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"Aside from an objective olfactory analysis of the experience of the Oleato some consumers may be also be open to any health benefits or to the alignment with the fitness industry in the way that Bulletproof (coffee with butter) has been popularised.

"As a self confessed coffee geek, a certified Q Arabica Grader and a Sensory coffee trainer I have to confess to being very much a purist and say that this is probably not the drink for me - but I'd definitely be open to giving it a go!"

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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