Jewish Tradition and Coffee Culture

Written by Lori Thiessen

Now I’m not part of the Jewish Community but I do know that some foods are considered kosher (ritually clean to eat) and others are not. I didn’t know that coffee was on the non-kosher list.

I’m not quite sure exactly what puts coffee on the non-kosher list (part of it could be that there is no rabbi to inspect it and bless it, but I’m just guessing here), however, members of the Jewish Community love their coffee as much as anyone.

Ezra and Mashie Feintuch decided that their Jewish community in Toronto should be given their very own kosher coffee shop. Ezra approached Second Cup about opening a kosher franchise of the chain, and his idea was warmly welcomed (Canadian Jewish News Oct 18, 2007). Second Cup was not unaware of the idea of a kosher coffee shop because in the late 1990’s, the chain opened up a shop in the heart of Jerusalem’s tourist district. But Second Cup is the first franchise to have a fully kosher coffee shop in North America and the Feintuchs are at the helm.

The coffee shop’s hours will observe Shabbat and all other Jewish holidays.

Coffee is not something new to Jewish culture. In fact, in an article by Norma Baumel Joseph (Canadian Jewish News Oct 19, 2006), she says that coffee is much discussed in rabbinic law. Like the Sufis who are documented as being the first people to brew coffee, 17th and 18thth century Jews also used coffee to help them stay awake during their more intense religious observances. But there were questions about the item itself and how it was prepared. Was it a food? Was it a medicine? Was it kosher?

Coffeehouses were also looked at askance by Jewish leaders because these were places where Jews and non-Jews could mingle. This mingling could lead to all sorts of trouble. In fact, Christian authorities and local policing authorities had their doubts about the coffeehouse as a safe public place. If people were imbibing a stimulant, the party could go on forever and get pretty rowdy, creating a public safety problem.

But all the concerns seemed to be answered by now. Coffee is a safe, sober drink and if prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, it’s kosher too. So I’ll raise my cyber mug of coffee to you — L’Chayim!

Until next time,

May your coffee always be freshly brewed!

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3 responses to “Jewish Tradition and Coffee Culture

  1. Pingback: Jewish Tradition and Coffee Culture

  2. I was on Yahoo and found your blog. Read a few of your other posts. Good work. I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tom Stanley

  3. Hi,
    It was so interesting to read this blog. I am currently writing an ethnography on the culture in coffee shops and in particular the jewish culture. Did you ever visit a kosher coffee shop? Would love to hear back!

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