Baltimore-based kosher authority Star-K recently announced that it is no longer able to recommend as many drinks sold by the Starbucks corporation as it once did.
Although Star-K never officially certified Starbucks as a kosher establishment, for years it has maintained a list of items sold by Starbucks that kosher consumers could drink. Star-K has not decertified Starbucks per se, but has produced an updated list that no longer includes recommendations for items with “syrups, sauces, toppings, powders and soy or almond milk.”
“When Starbucks Corporation started opening stores around the country, Orthodox Jews were very excited by it because it had nothing non-kosher in it,” said Rabbi Zvi Holland, kashrus administrator and director of special projects at Star-K. “It became the meeting place for Jewish business people. Not everything was kosher certified, but there were no questions.”
Questions arose, however, about whether or not certain equipment might have become compromised when Starbucks began selling non-kosher hot sandwiches in 2011.
In 2015, Starbucks approached Star-K and asked them to update their list of items that they deemed kosher, out of which came a pilot “kosher-friendly” program in which Star-K, with the cooperation of Starbucks, carefully audited hundreds of stores around the country, including equipment and utensil washing procedures.
“We expanded the list of things that were kosher,” said Holland. “For the first time kosher consumers were able to buy Frappuccinos. That was a really big deal.”
The new list with fewer recommendations, according to Holland, came as a result of Starbucks choosing not to continue the program with Star-K.
“Starbucks decided that this wasn’t something they wanted to continue. We’ve updated our list, it is a smaller list,” said Holland. “Consumers can add things to that list if they can confirm that the items they want to add are certified kosher.”
For those who drink their coffee black, looking for a caffeine fix at Starbucks need not cause any concern. A statement provided by Star-K reads “Please note: There have been no changes to our recommendations with regard to plain coffee.”
The updated list of kosher Starbucks items can be viewed by visiting star-k.org/articles/kosher-lists/1709/starbucks.