I Tried Starbucks’ Milan-Inspired Drink, the Cordusio
This week, Starbucks—the coffee chain that has mainstreamed Italian-esque espresso in American—celebrated the opening of its Reserve Roastery in one of Europe’s trendiest cities, Milan. The newest location of the chain’s upscale, experience-focused destinations is serving two implicit purposes: Bring Starbucks home to the country that inspired its very inception, and win over finicky Italian coffee aficionados. Whether Starbucks can accomplish the latter remains to be seen, but the company is still celebrating its quasi-homecoming with a new espresso beverage meant to give American customers a taste of Milan.
As a whole, Italian coffee culture differs from America in a few ways, with a focus on tiny cups of robust espressos and sitting (or standing) while sipping. Conversely, the U.S. market has favored milder roasts and sweeter, dessert-like options in convenient to-go cups we can drink will strolling or driving. So perhaps Starbucks’ new Cordusio is an attempt to bridge both attitudes toward getting a caffeine boost. Named after the piazza where the Milan Reserve Roastery sits, the Cordusio debuted this week at Starbucks locations across the U.S., Mexico, Europe, and parts of South America and will be available for a limited time. The drink features two shots of espresso, steamed whole milk, mocha syrup, and a dusting of cocoa powder, coming in a default “short” (8-ounce) size. The result is a smaller, less-sweet mocha, chocolatey without being overwhelming in flavor or sheer volume.
Perhaps as a nod to taking your coffee to stay, rather than to go, the Cordusio is probably best enjoyed the moment it’s served as mine had lost its froth and absorbed the cocoa powder by the time I got back to my desk (similar to my Starbucks protein shake experience). As a coffee drinker who usually errs on the side of just a little milk and no sugar in my coffee, the Cordusio certainly hit the mark on pleasing my palate with less-intense chocolate and espresso notes than a traditional mocha or straight shot, respectively.
Of course, when the drink is this small and espresso-forward, it’s all about the beans. Starbucks is opting for its original roast (as opposed to its more recently-introduced Blonde Roast or other Clover machine options), so while it’s a “new” beverage, you’re essentially getting more of the same espresso profile you’ve come to expect. For some connoisseurs, that original roast has been a point of contention, with criticisms ranging from it being too weak or too bitter and burnt.
So is it fair to compare the Cordusio to savoring a doppio or macchiato in an Italian coffee bar? Well, the words I used above “a taste of Milan” are actually Starbucks’ from a statement released about the drink launch. Based on my personal espresso experiences in Italy, I’d say it still tastes rather American. That said, as someone who often hits Starbucks for pick-me-up anyway, it’s something I’d certainly sip on while I’m stateside.