Monday, March 07, 2011

Starbucks Isn't Really So Kosher

As a proud Chicagoan, I think everyone should be aware that the CRC (Chicago Rabbinical Council) has put out a document entitled "Chicago Rabbinical Council Guide to Starbucks Beverages." You can download it here.

As a veteran of many dates where folks would take me to Starbucks and pull out the list, and as someone who has inadvertantly previously drunk non-kosher or only-kosher-b'dieved beverages at Starbucks, I think it's important for people to read this and realize that while it is possible the drink you are drinking is kosher b'dieved, that's not ideal. Also, that just because a website exists (the aforementioned does not make it reliable or accurate. Nowhere on the website has Uri or his co-founder addressed the issues the CRC has found with Starbucks beverages even though the CRC (Rabbi Fishbane specifically) has been making presentations about this for over a year.

A kippa hechsher- i.e. everyone eats/ drinks there so it must be kosher- doesn't cut it.

The CRC will be publishing an article about the kashrus issues with Starbucks in the
Spring 2011 edition of the The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.

In short, if you want to take your date out for coffee, consider Lazy Bean, Cafe K or Noi Due instead. Or go for Cokes. After all, do you really want someone to potentially be o'ver halakha just because she was dating you?


yitznewton said...

I saw this when it came out. Blues.

"Consider Lazy Bean, Cafe K or Noi Due instead."

Very nice, if they aren't 30 minutes (or 5 hours) away from your office/dwelling. But alas! My little mini-brewer is feeling all the more loved.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but just realize that what is really being said is to never drink coffee out. Oh and make sure the coke isn't coming from a fountain and that they have separate meat and dairy glasses and dishwashers.
Joel Rich

Ezzie said...

I don't know that it changed much; the Kosher Starbucks site mostly discusses the actual products, and the CRC is not disputing what is kosher or not, just how they're made may make them non-Kosher regardless. The only real change I see is that in bigger Starbucks (with meat sandwiches) the hot lattes and similar are likely not Kosher.

The Nudnik said...


Thank you for posting this. I had heard cRc had released some guidance about Starbucks, but had not yet gone to look at it. I forwarded you post, with the cRc pdf, to my children, one of whom is a big Starbucks fan. Will have more credibility coming from you than from me.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, this position of the cRc has been known for a long time, as per this discussion from 2 years ago on

If there really is a difference in position b/w the cRc and the OU, perhaps it makes sense to indicate that as well.

(maybe I'm missing something, but the issue seems more complicated than presented here)

Philo said...

I (and most people I know) have always drunken coffee at Starbucks without worry. I never heard of any list.

I'm not going to address the halachic substance of the list or of CRC's new document. I haven't yet looked at either, and in any case, I'm not a posek.

But my gut feeling is that this is another area where chumra is being piled on chumra, where what's been done for years is suddenly not "good enough". It's the glattification of all food. (Glatt was a chumra 30 years ago, now the mainstream Orthodox community views non-glatt as basically treif, with no halachic basis whatsoever.) Will this ever stop?

The Nudnik said...

HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, shlita, Av Beth Din of the cRc, is not a posek who believes in "chumra... being piled on chumra". So I suspect there is something else going on. You can contact the cRc, either by telephone (773.465.3900) or by selecting an email address from their website at

micha berger said...

In summary: With all the respect that I have for the cRc, we should be aware just who one is relying on when being more lenient.

While those are great chumeros, what I recall from YD wouldn't quite make this anything close to iqqar hadin. I'm not a poseiq, but I did learn the topic. It would seem to me -- speaking purely theoretically:

40 years ago, when R' Moshe, R' Hutner, R' Ruderman, R' Soloveitchik, etc... where the major voices in the US, people drank coffee anywhere -- including the people I named! The issues the cRc is raising is just as true for R' Ruderman's recommended date for a boy in Baltimore -- ice cream and a coffee in Howard Johnson's! The halakhah as practiced by 2-1/2 generations of Jews who bought unflavored coffee anywhere would permit anything in green in the kiosk column, caramel macchiato and apple cider if you ask them to omit the caramel topping even in a full store, and some other items. I think Rav Moshe's pesaqim and R' Ruderman's instructions to his talmidim are closer to's guidelines than the cRc's.

The cRc is suggesting you avoid all she'eilos. But those "some poseqim" on whom you're relying set the norm for a couple of generations of Jews. We're more like in the chalav yisrael territory -- logic might dictate being machmir, but we know that rov acharonim have historically been meiqil. You're accepting a chumerah, not following iqqar hadin.

Again, speaking only theoretically, as I'm not a poseiq.

I don't mean this as critical of the shift. Just making an observation. Just as one generation could be rov lehaqeil and the generally accepted halakhah is "mutar", it's just as real and binding when a later generation shifts to being machmir. I don't think that has happened in either case. And the trends will be"H be radically changed soon anyway, when there is a Sanhedrin to sit and be counted to decide these things.

Still, in today's halachic climate, I doubt the general rule about unflavored beer would have gotten started. I don't know when avoiding a minority opinion became grounds for communal norm, but now we're seeing those norms being tauted as iqqar hadin. The community that wishes to be machmir ends up redefining the baseline halakhah as qulah or bedi'eved.


Izzy said...

I have heard (but haven't confirmed) that the OU disagrees with the CRC on this. Since you work for the OU, can you confirm?

Anonymous said...

I hear that bedieveds have more fun...

In any case, Starbucks is still the better date plan than Cafe K or Noi Due, because you can sit and talk for as long as you like; in those other places, you'd be expected to eat a three-course dinner.

Anonymous said...

As they say " you what you eat"
isn't that right Philo?

micha berger said...

The word "bedi'eved" in its usual sense doesn't belong here. What R' Schwartz was paraphrased as saying was, "... Rav Schwartz Shlit”a, Av Beis Din of the cRc, acknowledged that there is basis for being lenient
on many of the items being sold at Starbucks stores, but directed the cRc to be true to the mission of a reliable Kashrus Agency
which only recommends items that are free of all shailos and not those which are only acceptable b’dieved."

The second clause is clearly just a paraphrase of the first, a synonym for not being free of all she'eilos.

I am pointing out that that basis includes all the major names in halakhah in America for the 20th century. I find it hard to consider something with that kind of backing to still be an open she'eilah. I mean, changing pesaqim is fine, but let's be conscious about it.

And why don't we find similar trends toward chumerah in some other mitzvos, ones I would consider more central to Judaism than kashrus -- geneivas da'as, even va'aven, genevas aku"m, dina demalkhusah dinah...? Somehow when it comes to finagling the system, we have no social pressure against bedi'eved Jews. And this then becomes the money we pay for chinukh, but that has reduced value because some of those children by the time they become teens will smell hypocrisy or duplicity because of it.

Still, again, I have no problems with new chumeros, even in rites like kashrus that don't have the same central impact on the person's psyche. But I don't get the impression that any of it is being thought through and planned as part of a systemic approach to avodas Hashem.


RaggedyDad said...

I think that for many of us, while not born out of a desire to be sheep and not ask our own shailos, it is indeed useful to have a guideline that lets us know how we can avoid potential kashrut pitfalls. Besides, nowadays it seems like a large Starbucks drink (especially in NYC) costs more than a decent-sized package of chicken at the grocery. We've been really happy with coffee at home lately! (French press from Amazon, coarsely ground beans)

yitznewton said...

Folks above mentioned the OU; when Gil Student Facebooked this, I commented that the OU had an old page on their website discussing Starbucks. It has since been removed...

Anonymous said...

that are free of all shailos and not those which are only acceptable b’dieved."
Which supports my new line of meat products - no meat from an animal that had a shailah asked about it or that the mashgiach had to think about asking a shailah would be included (this actually has a possible talmudic source as a hiddur)

I think Micha's point is that much like mar ukva who didn't keep his father's standard, according to many commentaries because he realized he wasn't at his father's standard in general, the choice of where to be makpid should be part of a life approach decision, not a random series of chumrot.

Keep dreaming Micha :-)
Joel Rich

JTD said...

joel, what's your basis for the separate dishwashers statement?

Anonymous said...

would you use one set of glass dishes at home for dairy and meat?

BTW listen here for a view closer to my own:
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

I found this helpful:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who takes out the time to visit a Starbucks will see that being machmir on this issue of utensils in Starbucks is bordering on the absurd.

There are so many different ways to be meikil. Its a kli sheni which is not bolea. Its batul. Soap is used. The entire problems is a safek; we don't know that this utensil was washed with the non-kosher one. And there are even more. The CRC is on a publicity campaign and they enjoy making our lives hard. I have smicha in yoreh deah so thank god they cant fool me.

The Nudnik said...

Anon 04/24 7:19pm et

"The CRC is on a publicity campaign and they enjoy making our lives hard."

It is obvious that you are not familiar with the Av Beth Din of the cRc, HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, shlita. That is NOT how he paskens.

Anonymous said...

Considering their stance on pretty much all produce except potatoes, I'd tend to agree with Anonymous above.

My issue with the CRC is I want to do the right thing, but saying everything is assur just means I'm not informed enough and since I won't listen, I'll go ahead and possibly make a mistake.

Luckily, I have many friends in kashrus and a Rav on whom I rely.

This publication doesn't actually mean Starbucks is "treif" (in the colloquial use of the word), but that the CRC doesn't want to put it's stamp on something which has any shailos. Which is silly.