Does coffee need a “Kosher L’Pesach” hechsher?
Rabbi Steigman responds:
Coffee definitely needs a special hechsher for Pesach due to the many potential Pesach challenges.
The first challenge is decaffeinated coffee. One of the methods used to decaffeinate the coffee relies on the use of ethyl acetate, which can be derived from chometz.
Instant coffee poses another potential problem. The coffee is normally spray dried, and while most coffee facilities own their own spray dryers, some send out their products to be spray dried at outside facilities. These outside facilities could be drying many other products, including grain products, which are chometz.
In addition, coffee has become quite expensive and some unscrupulous companies may possibly have an incentive to adulterate the coffee with other ingredients, which could be chometz. Some facilities that pack coffee also pack other drinks derived from grains. These are not year round concerns, but when it comes to Pesach (where many people are extra-stringent) they can be a concern. Obviously flavored coffees should be avoided for Pesach unless they have a special Pesach certification.
The Coffee or the Cup
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.
Now consider this: Life is the coffee, the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee Hashem has provided us.”
Hashem brews the coffee, not the cups… Enjoy your coffee! And on Pesach make sure it’s OK P.