Just a few steps from Duomo, overlooking Piazza Cordusio, lies the Starbucks Milano Roastery. Located in a historic building that was once the headquarter of the Stock Exchange, this Starbucks Reserve outlet opened its doors in September 2018. It is the third Reserve Roastery in the world, after Seattle and Shanghai, and the largest outlet in all of Europe.
Any normal Starbucks outlet has always been a familiar go-to for me for a quick pick-me-up, but it was almost a no-brainer to pop by this Reserve outlet when I was in town.
You couldn’t miss it — to say the exterior was extravagant was an understatement. The gazebos out front mimic the Italian lifestyle of sunbathing out on piazzas on a sunny summer’s day. I was there in winter — the gazebos weren’t in the best of shape.
The interior design and decoration are among the top things that people talk about. Fair enough, various local artisans were involved in the making of this Reserve outlet. Three floors were restored, along with a mezzanine level that’s opened to the public. The Starbucks chief design officer Liz Muller had a few things to say about the interior:
We have spent the past year living and breathing the city of Milan, working closely with dozens of local artisans to bring to life our most beautiful retail experience that engages each one of our customers’ senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and of course, taste. From the palladiana flooring that was chiselled by hand to the bright green clackerboard made by Italian craftsman Solari, everything you see in the Roastery is intentional, offering moments of discovery and transparency.Liz Muller, Starbucks Chief Design Officer
The Food & Bar
I couldn’t help but notice that the counters around the outlet were much like what you would find in a typical espresso bar in Italy — I had only been in the country for a couple of weeks at the time, but I was already familiar with the layout. Similar to previous Starbucks Roasteries that I’ve visited before, there was a scooping bar where you can buy a freshly scooped bag of coffee beans straight from the roaster; the roasting area smack in the middle of the interior featuring the Scolari roaster; and a merchandise area full of Starbucks merchandise, including Milano Roastery-exclusive ones.
The first different feature I noticed was the Princi Bar. As suggested by the name, this bar is in partnership with local bakery chain Princi, complete with an ad hoc menu full of pizzas, lasagna, focaccia, desserts and cakes. You’d think that the first thing you smell is the coffee beans roasting, but from my personal experience, I had a big whiff of the pizza they were making in the fire oven.
Before getting to the main coffee bar, I noticed many were queuing for the Arriviamo Bar, which was located on the mezzanine floor. This bar is fully inspired by the Italian tradition of aperitivo, to refer to early evening social cocktails with small bites. The bar had over 100 cocktails, a mix of traditional favourites and original creatives.
But of course, as tempted as I was by the aperitif, I had to take this opportunity to try some Milano Roastery-exclusive coffee. The Main Bar had an impressive range of coffee making equipment — everything from slow-brew methods to unique techniques that combine art with science. At the end of the bar, next to a line of siphons, was an Affogato station where ice cream was made with liquid nitrogen. Coincidentally, my seat was right in front of it, so I got to witness the clouds of vapour whenever they started making a batch.
The bar also has an extensive menu on top of the classics like americano and flat white — with all Roastery outlets, there are exclusive beverages you can only get there. There are a few nitro draft beverages, various types of brewed coffee choices, and even a gelato and coffee section where Starbucks partners with gelato expert Alberto Marchetti for a few exclusive beverages.
There were also two menu items under the “Today’s Starbucks Reserve Creations”, which looked like region-inspired coffee. Italy is one to be proud of their regional flavours, so getting an ‘Il Piemontese” was kind of a given.
However, the one that caught my eye on the menu was the Cold Craft Discovery Flight, which was stated in the menu as ‘exclusive to Milan’. What better way to experience the Milano Roastery than the flight experience that was crafted exclusively for this outlet. In this, there were three different interpretations to the Cold Brew: Nitro Cold Brew, Cold Brew Lemon Sour and Arancia Rossa.
I started with the Nitro Cold Brew, as it felt like a classic compared to the rest. The drink was infused with nitrogen that brought out the coffee’s creamy, natural sweetness. It was milder and more watered down than I thought. There was a hint of nutty flavours, and the brew was darker nonetheless and left kind of a charcoal aftertaste for me.
The Cold Brew Lemon Sour was shaken with maple syrup and fresh lemon, then garnished with a Luxardo cherry, lemon twist and Demerara sugar. It was completely different from the first one — I thought I was sipping on a cocktail in Thailand, and I believe it had to do with the overwhelming sour that you’d get as a cocktail.
The Arancia Rossa was my favourite — a lightly sweetened cold brew with blood orange and fresh orange juice served over ice and garnished with an orange peel. It was sweet, so sweet it could’ve passed as a mocktail. I was pretty convinced that it was what they were going for with this drink, mimicking the looks of the Italian alcoholic liqueur Campari. In fact, the visual looked very much like a Negroni — just the non-alcoholic, coffee-based version.
After the round of flights, I didn’t feel so bad not getting an aperitif from the Arriviamo Bar, because I felt like I already had my share of aperitifs with just the three cold brews. The coffee menu at Milano Roastery does a very good job of expressing the Italian lifestyle through caffeine.
And as for the Il Piemontese, I wasn’t a fan. The drink had two shots of espresso paired with a creamy hazelnut-infused milk. Compared to a normal latte at Starbucks, this drink had a thicker texture, very strong bitter nuttiness aftertaste that overpowered the coffee flavours completely. I wasn’t sure how the people of Piemontese liked their coffee, but maybe this was a peek into their coffee world.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the Milano Roastery and very much impressed at the level of local touch the food and coffee menu had. It exerts the Italian lifestyle through the various creative ways of serving coffee. I personally would recommend the cold brews for non-drinkers interested in a taste of the Italian aperitivo tradition, as replacements of the all-out aperitifs at the bar — both are coffee-infused, of course.