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Just call it an Italian roast.
Starbucks CEO announced Monday that the Seattle-based coffee company is opening a branch in Milan, Italy — a city where a correctly brewed “caffe” is even more sacred than Nonna’s secret pasta sauce recipe.
“Our first store will be designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture,” said Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, in a press release announcing its new partnership with Italian licensee Percassi. “We’re going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we’ve been doing and what we’ve learned through our first retail presence in Italy.”
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According to the release, the very idea for the Starbucks we know today came about after Schultz visited Milan more than 30 years ago, and was “inspired by the craftsmanship of the Milanese barista, the spirit of the Italian people, their passion for community, [and] their friendliness and taste for quality.”
However, it’s not clear if Starbucks’s take on the Italian coffee culture will be an easy sell in a city where sprinkling cinnamon onto milky coffee is akin to scrawling graffiti across Michelangelo's David.
“I’ve never met an Italian who can tolerate a warm drink in a paper cup,” said Marjorie Shaw, an Italian-American who lives in Rome, in a message to NBC News. “Furthermore, the taking of the coffee is a jewel of a moment, often social, not a snatch and run beverage,”
Still, some detractors note that the American influence is indeed on the rise in Europe.
“The cup is a status symbol. It’s cool to go around town with a Starbucks cup. Starbucks sells image, not coffee," Katie Wood, an American expat living in Pisa, told NBC News. “But if they have any taste, they’ll take the empty cup to a real bar to have it filled.”
Others were a little more sanguine.
“They should do alright,” wrote one commenter on a Facebook forum discussing the issue. “Italians like to linger at a free space with free WiFi as much as anybody else.”
The first Starbucks will open in Milan early next year, with more stores slated for a later rollout.