Though coffee consumers nationwide may be steaming over Starbucks’ change in kosher status, the caffeinated faithful in Pittsburgh have largely kept cool about the situation. Last week, the Star-K, a national kosher certification agency based in Baltimore announced that “Starbucks corporation has decided to end the expanded Star-K kosher information program.
Consumers are advised that effective immediately the Star-K can only recommend a limited number of drinks and can no longer vouch for the kashrus of many of the flavored items previously listed.”
The organization went on to state that “in general, Starbucks stores serve hot treif meat and cheese. Therefore, since 2011,” Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, the Star-K’s rabbinic administrator, “suggests that one should avoid if at all possible buying drinks prepared with equipment that may have been washed with treif equipment.”
Although a list of “acceptable” drinks was included in the announcement, many were outraged by the events and went online to seethe.
A change.org petition to “Make Starbucks Kosher Again” attracted 8,000 supporters, many of whom shared comments claiming that the decision reflected an “insensitivity” from the Seattle-based corporation.
In Pittsburgh, however, reactions were less heated.
“I don’t really think this rates on the Richter scale of earth-shattering things,” said Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Shaare Torah Congregation.
“I couldn’t give a flying fickle finger,” echoed Jerome Parness, of Squirrel Hill.
Wasserman, a member of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh, said that he and his local rabbinic colleagues may discuss the matter at an upcoming meeting. He clarified, however, that he does not speak on behalf of the group.
The Vaad Harabanim describes itself as the “local kosher supervision agency in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area,” supervising “local restaurants, bakeries, caterers, institutional kitchens and commercial enterprises.”
Those interested in obtaining “Vaad certified” coffee have other options, explained Wasserman.
“Dunkin’ Donuts on Shady and Forbes is under our hechser, so if people are not sure what to do with regards to coffee they can go in there,” he said.
“We gave a hechsher here in town on Dunkin’ Donuts, and there they are very careful not to wash anything that comes in contact with the coffee with anything that comes in contact with dairy,” echoed Rabbi Yosef Itkin, kashrus administrator of the Vaad Harabanim.
As for the coffeehouse marked by an iconic green siren, Itkin added, “I don’t have any connection to Starbucks.”
Parness, a cold-brewer who boasted the quality of Costco’s Rwandan coffee, scorched Starbucks before questioning the company’s rationale.
“I would never drink that stuff, it’s so full of calories,” said the retired physician. “I used to drink a lot of Starbucks coffee but I found it very bitter…I’m very surprised at what they’ve done. I guess the kosher market is not so important; I don’t know why they would have done something like that.”
Like several interviewed for the story, Michelle Goldwasser stated that she found the issue rather bland.
Said the Squirrel Hill resident, “The truth is that I’m not a coffee drinker. I never go to Starbucks.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.