Starbucks' New Oil-Infused Coffee May Wreck Your Stomach—Here's Why
Starbucks' decision to make olive oil the star of the buzzworthy new Oleato coffee line has been controversial from the start. When the chain first announced the olive-oil-infused beverages in February, many customers weren't sold on the prospect of tasting the typically savory ingredient in their morning mug of coffee. And now that Americans are finally getting the opportunity to try the coffees following their debut in select locations last month, they're finding that taste isn't all that they have to worry about.
As one customer revealed rather bluntly on Twitter last week: "Apparently @Starbucks thinks I need help having diarrhea with this #oleato #coffee. Let's add olive oil to my morning cup just in case it wasn't already flying through me at light speed."
Unfortunately, this customer is far from alone in their experience with the new coffee drinks. Another Twitter user described the Oleato line as a "legit laxative" in a post last week. Even a Starbucks employee called attention to the issue in a recent Reddit thread, saying that several fellow workers ended up "needing to use the restroom, if ya know what I mean" after sampling the beverages.
So what could be the reason for this unsavory consequence of consuming one of Starbucks' olive oil coffees? The customer who described the coffee as a "laxative" may be on to something, according to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, a registered dietitian, author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility, and member of our Medical Expert Board.
"Olive oil can have a slight laxative effect for some people," Manaker says. "And when olive oil is combined with caffeine, another factor that may promote a bowel movement, people may feel the effects."
Manaker noted that this is not necessarily an unwelcome effect for people who struggle to have frequent bowel movements. Studies also show that there are "many beneficial health effects" in consuming olive oil, which is packed with antioxidants, Manaker said.
But for customers who'd rather avoid having to run to the bathroom after drinking something from Starbucks' Oleato line, you may want to rethink another aspect of your coffee order. "If a person has issues with caffeine and notices that their bowels are stimulated after consuming that stimulant, perhaps opting for decaf options of the olive oil drink may be a better option," Manaker said.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz, who just recently departed the company, was inspired to create the Oleato line while traveling in Sicily last year. Schultz said that he took part in the Mediterranean custom of consuming a daily spoonful of olive oil while he was there, often as he drank his morning coffee. He was inspired to try the two together and discovered an "unexpected, velvety, buttery flavor that enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate."
The resulting line of Oleato beverages includes caffè lattes, cold brews, and iced shaken espressos, all of which are infused with a spoonful of Partanna extra virgin olive oil. Starbucks initially launched the drinks in Italy in February before bringing them to select markets in the United States in March, including Seattle and Los Angeles. The bowel issues aside, some customers have been responding positively to the drinks regarding taste, while others have given negative reviews.
In other Starbucks news, the chain recently outraged customers by discontinuing the popular raspberry syrup, but the new Cinnamon Caramel Cream Nitro Cold Brew that debuted last month received a rave review in our own taste test.