I go through morning coffee phases. I always grind my own beans, I never buy ground coffee. Sometimes I prep the coffee maker the night before and set the timer, sometimes I’ll wait to put the coffee on until I wake up. Once in a while, I’ll make the “Martha Stewart Latte,” which I learned from the Martha Stewart Show. Pour milk into a jar with a lid, shake it shake it shake it, then microwave for a minute or so… you will end up with frothy warm milk for your coffee. (I guess technically that’s a cafe au lait, not a latte, but close enough.)
So, what kind of coffee can you buy if you keep kosher? Almost all of them! Unflavored coffee does not need a hechsher (symbol letting consumer know the item is kosher). Many coffee brands, including Starbucks, actually do have a kosher certification anyway, but technically, you do not need to look for a kosher symbol if the coffee is unflavored. There is a great list of items that do not need a hechsher on the KosherQuest website.
Why do you need to worry about a hechsher on coffee if it doesn’t really require one? The tricky part is Passover. During Passover, people who keep kosher must be extra diligent to avoid buying items which have hidden wheat or other leavening ingredients, which can’t be consumed during Passover. Coffee that carries an O-U (Orthodox Union) certification are kosher both year-round and during Passover. The Orthodox Union puts out a comprehensive Passover-specific guide each year. For information on coffee and other products take a look at the guide: O-U Passover Guide
Alright, I know, who cares about what kind of coffee to buy… the more important question is, “What about Starbucks?” There is a great website on which drinks and food items are kosher at Starbucks. It was created by Uri and Moshe Ort, brothers who are Starbucks addicts. While they are not a kosher certifying agency, the information they provide at KosherStarbucks can be verified at your local Starbucks… provided they are not too busy and have time to show you some of their products. I actually tested this out. In the warmer months, when Starbucks serves the refreshers, I asked to see the base. The barrista was happy to show me the mix they use. One of the flavors was kosher, one wasn’t. The KosherStarbucks website also indicates Kashrut preferences, such as kosher certified only, kosher ingredients or no utensils used items, depending on “how kosher” you are.
So, why do you need this information? It’s really a matter of common courtesy when you are visiting a kosher facility, such as Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging or the Tucson Jewish Community Center. If you are going to walk through the building, and possibly set your drink down on a table, wouldn’t it be considerate to have something kosher in the cup? Not everyone is necessarily aware of what is and isn’t kosher, but as Maya Angelou says, when you know better you can do better.