By COLlive staff
Back in February 2011, COLlive.com debuted the “Guide to Starbucks Beverages” composed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council and mapping out what’s permissable at the popular coffee chain.
Following an interesting discussion in the comments, we followed up with an interview with Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, a rabbinical coordinator at the OK Labs on how Lubavitchers should buy their coffee.
That area of expertise is now being officially named “Coffee Kosherology” by the New York Times. An article in the Sunday edition reports about “Blending a Strong Interest in Kosher Ingredients With a Taste for Starbucks Coffee.”
Mark Oppenheimer writes about Uri Ort, a single 26-year-old Orthodox Jew in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, who is an e-commerce manager and also runs the website kosherstarbucks.com.
The Times says “Ort is the leading amateur in the world of coffee kosherology (that’s what we’re calling it): the science of figuring out what is kosher, what traditional religious Jews may consume, at Starbucks.”
The paper explained that while coffee beans and hot water are kosher, Starbucks does offer ham sandwiches and no kosher milk. The utensils commingle in sinks and washing machines and are later used to skim a soy latte.
To help sort matters out, Ort and his younger brother, Teddy, started the website that they say hundreds of thousands have consulted, to see what is permissible to eat and drink at America’s favorite coffee house.
Ort helpfully marks all Starbucks products with either a green light or a red light. The Frappuccinos all get red lights. The Tazo teas, green lights. Hot chocolate, green light — but white hot chocolate, red light. The Vivanno smoothie? It depends on the flavor. Mocha drizzle on top — yes! Caramel drizzle, no. Yes to whipped cream.
Ort is not the only macher in this game, the Times points out.
Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the kosher supervisor for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, spent more than 2 years stopping into Starbucks stores all over the world, researching his definitive 2011 document, “Guide to Starbucks Beverages.”
Rabbi Fishbane’s paper is a thorough, painstaking document, Oppenheimer writes. For example, he discusses at length the Starbucks dishwasher, which uses 180-degree water — a reassuringly sanitary temperature, but bad for Starbucks’s kosher status, because it is considered hot enough to absorb nonkosher flavors into a pot.
But Ort says claims that “the large certifying agencies, such as the Star-K and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, are far too quick to simply say beverages in Starbucks are not kosher.”
They are thus “keeping themselves safe while inconveniencing thousands of people, when in fact, according to Jewish law, many beverages are completely kosher,” says Ort who sends out email updates about new drinks and changing to old ones.