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Frothing up Italian coffee: Starbucks is on its way

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Starbucks will open its first store in Milan in 2017. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP
09:24 CET+01:00
It was Italy, and more pertinently, the country’s coffee culture, that inspired Howard Shultz to start his Starbucks empire 33 years ago.

“Starbucks' history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso,” Shultz said in a press release on Monday.

Now, having conquered much of the world, he is finally bringing the coffee chain to Italy, with the first store due to open in Milan in 2017.

Frapuccinos and flavoured lattés will now be served up thanks to a deal orchestrated by the ex-footballer and entrepreneur Antonio Percassi.

Under a licensee partnership, his company, Percassi, will own and operate the Starbucks stores.

During his trip to Milan and Verona in the early 1980s, Shultz was "inspired by the craftsmanship of the Milanese barista, the spirit of the Italian people, their passion for community, their friendliness and taste for quality".

Starbucks' founder Howard Shultz has long dreamed of bringing his coffee chain to Italy. Photo: Starbucks

"Everything that we’ve done sits on the foundation of those wonderful experiences that many of us have had in Italy," he said.

Aware of the pride Italians have in their coffee culture, Shultz added that the first branch will be “designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture”.

“And, my hope is that we will create a sense of pride for our partners – so much so that every partner who sees our store or walks through the doors will say: ‘We got it right.’”

Rumours of Starbucks' arrival late last year were mostly shrugged off, with one Rome bar owner telling The Local that “Italians will never pay three times the price for something that we can do better for a fraction of the cost.”

But Percassi is ready for the challenge.

"We know that we are going to face a unique challenge with the opening of the first Starbucks store in Italy, the country of coffee,” he said.

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“But we are confident that Italian people are ready to live the Starbucks experience, as already occurs in many other markets."

Despite the reservations, the concept could work well in a country that attracts lots of visitors, Bill Paige, a consultant at Francorp, a global franchise consultancy firm, recently told The Local.

"In Italy there's some of the finest coffee there is – but there are also lots of tourists, and it would be a comfort to them.

"Some are going to love it and some are going to hate it.”

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