Starbucks Milano Duetto – an innovative ode to coffee, arts and culture

Created by Starbucks master roasters in Milan and Seattle, Starbucks Milano Duetto is one blend, expressed through two bold, contrasting roasts – a light roast, Starbucks Milano Sole, and a dark roast, Starbucks Milano Luna – highlighting the duality between tradition and innovation.  

Unveiled for the first time exclusively at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery Milano, these coffees are inspired by Milan’s rich culture of coffee, art and design.  

To celebrate the launch, the Milano Roastery will offer guests immersive experiences that bring to life the intersection of coffee, art and music, and showcase the duality of light and dark. Just as art can deepen and beautifully change perceptions, Starbucks invites customers on a journey that deepens their perceptions of coffee roasting and craft.  

At Starbucks, everything we do is fueled by the belief that coffee and culture are intertwined – unlocking rich, new experiences with every sip. While we began as a small store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market selling whole bean coffee, our cafes known worldwide today were inspired by the vibrant coffee culture of Milan, Italy.  

For decades, we have fused the spirit of these two places into our handcrafted beverages and store designs to connect, surprise and delight millions. The opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano in 2018 in the heart of the city’s arts district was a full-circle moment that continues to spark conversations.

Even now, after more than 50 years of building expertise in coffee roasting, our master roasters are still challenging themselves to take their craft to the next level. Working together, they have created Starbucks Milano Duetto, one unique and elevated coffee blend, roasted in two distinct ways as Starbucks Milano Luna and Starbucks Milano Sole. These new limited-release, special-edition coffees will be unveiled at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano on May 21, and will be available in Starbucks stores around the world later this year.  

Introducing Starbucks Milano Duetto 

“Crafted and celebrated by our partners from Seattle to Milan, Starbucks Milano Sole and Starbucks Milano Luna are two distinct and contrasting roasts that show how small differences can create unique and contrasting experiences,” said Starbucks chief executive officer Laxman Narasimhan. “The two roasts — which showcase the unparalleled quality, unique blends and artful roasting of our premium coffees — represent the heart and soul of Starbucks and allow our customers to explore coffee in a new way that elevates the Starbucks Experience.”

The blend is crafted from coffee grown in Colombia and Sumatra, where Starbucks has worked and sourced from trusted smallholder farmer communities for many years. The washed method of the South American coffee contributes heightened acidity and a clean finish while the semi-washed method of the Sumatra coffee contributes a distinctive full body and earthy, herbal flavor notes.   

Once the Starbucks Coffee and Tea Development team decided on this combination, they were able to experiment with a range of roasts by stopping at various points in the cycle. 

While Starbucks has long offered a variety of roasts that appeal to the broad range of customer tastes, Starbucks Milano Sole and Luna represent brand innovation.  

Sergio Alvarez, a 15-year partner (employee) and coffee developer, has been part of many projects, but is particularly thrilled by the surprises revealed during this latest homage to coffee craft. 

"The best way to understand the nuances and the effect roasting has on the coffee creation process is to compare the same blend roasted two different ways,” he said.  

A transatlantic partnership rooted in history and a passion for craft 

To create Starbucks Milano Duetto, Sergio and the team in Seattle collaborated with two master roasters who have their own unique stories. Thirty-four-year partner and global master roaster, Brad Anderson, known for developing the groundbreaking Pike Place® Roast, also helped open the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano. While there, he trained Oscar Manuel Quintana Hernandez, who would become the lead roaster in Italy. 

Oscar started as a barista in Madrid in 2011. He was the Spanish regional coffee ambassador for Starbucks before becoming a coffee roaster in Amsterdam. In 2022, he stepped into the role as master roaster at the Reserve Roastery Milano.

“This is one of the highlights of my career as a master roaster,” said Oscar. “I truly enjoyed being able to co-create something so special and unique with the development team, and I believe both Milano Sole and Milano Luna are excellent examples of what we can achieve when we come together and collaborate.” 

After nearly a dozen iterations, the result is something the team is excited for partners and customers to try. For the lucky few who’ve sampled the two blends side-by-side, including visitors to Miart, Milan's international modern and contemporary art fair, the early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.  

Starbucks Milano Sole

This light roast pays homage to the vibrant Milanese coffee culture, featuring medium-high acidity, melding notes of creamy vanilla custard and sweet pomegranate with hints of nutmeg. Complementary flavor pairings include citrus, caramel and cinnamon.  

Starbucks Milano Luna

This dark roast coffee is an ode to the heritage of Starbucks roasting, which highlights bold notes of dark chocolate truffle and roasted black walnut, making it a lovely pairing with cheese, almond and maple flavors.

Fusing our love for art and design with human connection and cafe culture 

Just as art can deepen and beautifully change perceptions, the Starbucks designers who created the art on the packaging for Starbucks Milano Luna and Starbucks Milano Sole wanted to invite our customers on a visual journey that deepens their perceptions of coffee roasting and craft.  

“Creating something that is disruptive and a little bit fresh for our partners and our customers was a really exciting task for us,” said Taylor Mattson, lead art director on the project.  

“We were encouraged to think about duality and contrast. Contrast creates clarity, so the design has great contrast to visually represent the two roasts and to highlight the story of the coffee. We also wanted to ensure the essence of Milan is felt in the coffee art design,” said Yumi Reid, a senior designer for Starbucks.  

The artwork on the tasting cards attached to the limited-edition whole bean coffee features shapes and textures inspired by the terrazzo floor in the Reserve Roastery Milano. Designs of coffee botanicals make a meaningful connection between coffee, Starbucks and art. 

Yumi describes these little details as “Easter egg moments, with all kinds of paintbrush, and texture, and high energy in the design.”  

On a recent afternoon, Sergio met up with the two designers to taste the final Starbucks Milano Sole and Starbucks Milano Luna blends – side-by-side. 

“This is an opportunity to create conversation around coffee, the art of roasting, and our heritage,” Sergio said. “Our hope is that after tasting these coffees, our partners and customers are inspired, and perhaps have that ‘aha’ moment that many baristas have when tasting coffee. The moment where one wants to learn more. ‘What is this? Why does it taste like this? How did this come to life?’” 

After months of collaboration, Yumi and Taylor were delighted to smell and sip the flavors of the coffees, details they’ve now memorized by heart.  

Yumi said it felt like they finally put the puzzle pieces together “to tell the story behind the Starbucks Milano Duetto.” 

They can’t wait for customers to have the same experience.  

Unveiling Starbucks Milano Duetto  

From May 21 to June 3 the two whole-bean coffees will be available to taste and to purchase exclusively at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano.  

From May 21 to May 26, visitors to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano can also taste the coffees in two limited-edition handcrafted beverages, the Starbucks Milano Luna Caramel Macchiato and the Starbucks Milano Sole Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, as well order a coffee flight featuring both coffees brewed hot on the Clover and as cold-brewed coffees.   

To celebrate the unveiling of the coffees, on May 21 the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano will offer guests immersive experiences that bring to life the intersection of coffee, art and music, and showcase the duality and contrast of light and dark. Just as art can deepen and beautifully change perceptions, Starbucks invites its customers on a journey that deepens perceptions of coffee roasting and craft.  

The special one-day event will feature artwork by Milan artists. The murals are inspired by contrast, juxtaposition, and the duality of light and dark – like day to night; sole to luna; jagged and elegant. Inside the Roastery, customers can experience a dynamic digital installation that reimagines the coffee roasting process as a mesmerizing 3D particle animation. This simulation brings the transformative journey of coffee beans to life, with particles moving and interacting in a confined space that serves as a digital window into a coffee roaster.  

Starbucks Milano Sole and Starbucks Milano Luna will launch in stores around the world later this year. 

thumbnail for ‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community 

‘By us and for us:’ New Starbucks merch inspired by LGBTQ+ community