Starbucks' Most Audacious (and Craziest?) Move Yet

Starbucks Italy
Starbucks Italy

There is a reason so many of the coffee terms at Starbucks and other coffee shops sound Italian. They are. Except that some of them are misused. We'll get to that in a minute, but the big news is that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has decided to circle back to the city where he first had the idea to create a new coffee shop concept: Milan, Italy. The very idea of a Starbucks in the land of the original espresso is a bold move for sure, and many are those who say it will never work. Don't let the menu peppered with Italian words fool you; Starbucks culture is worlds apart from Italian coffee culture. A few significant differences:

  • Good luck convincing an Italian to drink coffee out of a cardboard cup.
  • Capuccino is served in the morning ONLY. I've even been to Italian coffee bars where there is a sign stating so in no uncertain terms for American tourists.
  • All the other variations on a coffee theme Starbucks has concocted over the years, with other franchises following suit, might be a hard sell in Italy. Pumpkin flavor in coffee? Almond soy half-caff? In Italy, caffè è caffè.
  • The idea of hanging out with your coffee drink and a laptop for a couple of hours is practically unknown in Italy. The current m.o. is to drink your espresso quickly, often standing up, at the corner coffee bar, then going on about your day.

At this point, Starbucks is planning just one experimental store in Milan. Many eyes will be on that one location to see if the idea might fly in the rest of the country.

Just for fun, here are the literal meanings of some of the Italian words you'll find on a Starbucks menu board or other American coffee shop:

  • Espresso - express
  • Latte - milk
  • Macchiato - stained (although Italians do use the term caffè machiatto to mean "coffee with milk")
  • Affogato - drowned
  • Venti - twenty
  • Mocha - besides the meaning understood in English, a mocha is also the Italian name for the quintessential Italian coffeemaker pictured here:

Do you have a prediction? Will it fly?