Have a tall caramel latte, but hold the Frappuccino

Zev Hurwitz, BP Staff

Jaclyn Kellner, Deputy Editor

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Most of the hot beverages and iced lattés are kosher, but Frappuccinos are not. That’s the good news and the bad news from the Starbucks across the street from Shalhevet at Fairfax and Olympic.

According to Star K, coffee and tea are always kosher as long as the coffee beans aren’t flavored. Since Starbucks does not add flavors to its coffee beans but rather has its baristas add syrups to flavor the drinks, unflavored drinks are always fine there. Moreover, because all flavorings are added directly to the cup, there is no issue with non-kosher ingredients coming into contact with Starbucks’ equipment. So all drinks are kosher if the ingredients are.

That raises the question of the ingredients, which can mostly be determined just from watching how drinks are prepared and examining the packaging they come in. Most of us don’t do that when we go there for a latte, but there are others who do.

Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Hertzie Richler periodically posts a list of kosher Starbucks beverages from KosherStarbucks.com, a website that publishes information gathered by Moshe and Uri Ort. The two men visit different Starbucks venues daily to keep their website updated.

According to the website, the Orts are also in touch with a group of Starbucks employees, and they use this information to determine which beverages are comprised solely of ingredients hechshered (supervised) by widely accepted kosher-certifying agencies.

The Boiling Point researched and attempted to contact the Orts multiple times but could not find anything about them. However, all the information on the website matched The Boiling Point’s own findings in observing the baristas, talking to the manager and checking ingredients’ packaging at the local store.

Here is a sampling of what is okay and what isn’t at the Starbuck’s at Fairfax and Olympic, along with the source of the information:

•The majority of Starbucks’s flavoring syrups are kosher and labeled OU. Exceptions at the local store are White Chocolate, Caramel Brule and Pumpkin Spice, all three being not kosher.

•At the Starbuck’s on Fairfax and Olympic, all syrups are displayed visibly behind the glass between where people order and pick up their drinks. While the syrup bottles aren’t visible from where you order, people can look at them on their way from the front entrance to the cashier.

•Caramel sauce is not hechshered, but can be replaced with caramel syrup, which is kosher, upon request (visible on bottles).

•The sweetener Starbucks uses in its teas is kosher (visible on bottles).

•Berry Chai Tazo Tea infusion is the only non-kosher tea (KosherStarbucks.com).

•Whipped cream and chocolate, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and brown sugar used at the Fairfax Starbucks, are also kosher (visible on containers).

•The flavoring base Starbucks uses for its ice-blended beverages like Frappucinos are not hechshered. According to KosherStarbucks.com, this product used to be kosher but was recently changed.  Thus all Frappuccino drinks are non-kosher at this time.

•None of the fresh pastries at the Fairfax Starbucks is kosher, according to Chloe Emmanuel, store manager. The cream cheese, however, is (visible on package).

•Starbucks’ oatmeal and its toppings are kosher (visible on package).

But when you really need a bite, there’s definitely food at Starbucks that you don’t need to worry about. A variety of prepackaged food and beverages are labeled kosher on their packaging, including Naked brand juice, bottled Frappucinos and Double Shots, shortbread cookies, and dried nuts.

Alternatively, seniors with off-campus privilieges can always head over to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, about half a mile up the street at Wilshire and Gale.  The entire Coffee Bean chain is kosher-owned, and everything served at any of their shops is kosher, from hot and cold drinks to  toasted cheese bagels and a range of sandwiches.

For the rest of us, there’s always the school cafeteria.

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