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Why James Hoffmann removed His Review of the Olive Oil-Infused Coffees At Starbucks

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A few weeks ago, James Hoffman traveled to a Starbucks in Milan to try the new “oleato” coffees. The oleato drinks are coffee mixed with olive oil. They sound weird, but James seemed to enjoy them. It was an entertaining review and seemed to be getting tons of views, but James decided to remove it from Youtube one week later.

I’m glad he did. It’s hard to hear any news about Starbucks these days without also thinking about the poor way they treat their workers. It seems like Starbucks keeps trying to make crazy announcements about special edition NFTs or olive-oil coffees, just to try to bury the big news about their illegal union busting activities.

James hasn’t said much publicly about why he removed the videos, but I did find a comment about it on his now “private” video page. You can see the comment below:

A comment from James Hoffman on youtube that says "This video was conceived and produced before the extent of Starbucks' union-busting efforts was clear. It was meant to be a bit of fun, looking at a weird line of drinks. To have posted it now does feel a little tone-deaf. My intention is not to support Starbucks over its workers. As such, all AdSense for this video will be donated to Starbucks Workers United."

I also found this Twitter thread between James and a fan, in which James says he is contributing all of that video’s ad revenue to the Starbucks Workers United:

A series of tweet between @keithjcarberry and @jimseven (James). Keith is telling James about Starbucks union-busting efforts and James is saying he didn't know.

I’m really glad that James is donating the funds to the Starbucks union, but I hope he considers reposting the video along with a note about Starbucks’ union-busting efforts.

@docpop honestly, being in Seattle where a lot of the union busting is happening and the discussions are being had, it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the video. Glad he's putting thought into it.

— someguyjg (@someguyjg)2023-04-12T17:36:18.164Z

FWIW, it is sometimes hard to find a way to review something while also addressing the elephant in the room. I think Li Goldstein handled it well in her review of the Oleatos for Bon Apetit.

A screenshot from Bon Apetit that says:

Starbucks’ departing CEO, Howard Schultz, has cast the Oleato line as his tour de force, a momentous cap to his career. “In over 40 years, I can’t remember a moment in time where I’ve been more excited, more enthused,” he said in a recent official statement. While we’re on the topic, Schultz has excitedly and enthusiastically opposed union efforts. Lately he’s divided his time singing the praises of Oleato in a multination press junket and defending his union-busting behavior to a dubious Bernie Sanders. 

Finding myself flanked on one side by pretty negative press, and Schultz’s shiny, oil-slicked PR language invoking the sun-soaked groves of Sicily on the other, I had to try it when I heard it debuted in the US just last week. There was only one way to indulge that impulse, and that was hauling myself from Brooklyn in a downpour to Chelsea. (Workers at this very location struck last October to December, alleging unsanitary conditions—in the end, management agreed to clean their ice machines regularly.)

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