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The coffee bean itself is of course vegan. A coffee bean is actually the seed of the coffee plant fruit (called a cherry). However, there are other things to consider before we can answer the question of ‘Is coffee vegan?’ We also look at a personal story about transitioning to vegetarianism and how coffee is still popular.
The coffee bean is green when it’s harvested. It’s dried, milled, shipped, ground, and then roasted. The roasted coffee bean may have a range of brown colors depending upon how long it has been roasted.
Can vegans drink coffee? Short answer, yes if black coffee! Long answer, maybe. Read the rest of this post to find out what we mean.
Are there different kinds of coffee that vegans can’t drink? Yes, and we will discuss this later.
The problem is not so much the coffee bean itself but how it is brewed into a cup of coffee.
There is also a separate problem if you are concerned about the environmental impacts of farming coffee.
First, let us just revise what it is to be a vegetarian and the different classifications of vegetarianism.
What is a Vegetarian?
When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn’t include meat, poultry, or ﬁsh. But vegetarian diets vary in the foods they include and exclude. Let’s look at some of the main classifications of vegetarian diets.
Veganism is the practice of not using or eating animal products or products created by using animal products. Essentially, no animals are allowed in manufacturing. Vegan diets Diets exclude meat, poultry, ﬁsh, eggs, and dairy products and foods that contain these products.
Lactovegetarian diets exclude meat, ﬁsh, poultry, and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, are included.
Pescatarian Vegetarian Diet
Pescatarian Vegetarian Diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow ﬁsh.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian diets exclude meat, ﬁsh, and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
Ovo-Vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products, but allow eggs.
The following infographic on vegetarianism summarizes the various vegetarian diets.
Vegetarianism is More than a Diet
The vegetarian lifestyle is also about choosing foods and products that are ethically sourced and created. It is also about the ecosystem, coffee packaging, and individual rights. The vegetarian lifestyle is about living sustainably so our planet, animals, and humans can thrive together.
This can have an impact on which coffee is chosen by a vegetarian.
Most people, not just vegetarians, will probably not like coffee beans that are grown with harmful pesticides, damage the ecosystem, disadvantage farmers, or have farmers living in poverty.
Coffee is a business and often the only way for some people to survive. Smaller farmers may have a difficult time and so it is important that they are supported.
Cheap coffee usually means that the coffee farmers are missing out in some way. It may also mean that roasters or buyers are squeezing the coffee farmers for price and making life far more difficult than it should.
Consequently, we really need to think carefully before we buy that ‘cheap coffee’.
Ethical coffee roasters, buyers, and importers need to support and give back to their farm partners. Vegetarians generally think about these issues before buying coffee.
Packaging coffee is also a concern. Packing that is plastic and not biodegradable is frowned upon by vegetarians (and others too).
How Vegetarians Can Select Sustainable and Ethical Coffee
Vegetarians can look out for the following signs to select sustainable and ethical coffee…
- Fairtrade certified. See our posts on Best Fair Trade Coffee Brands From Around the World and Best Fair Trade Coffee Brands in Africa.
- Organic-certified. However, this can also be misleading in that it isn’t always clear what ‘organic’ means.
- Production in a LEED standard energy-efficient workplaces. “LEED provides a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.” LEED is an acronym for ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’
- Shelf-stable, fully biodegradable coffee packaging.
- Shade-grown coffee beans. Coffee naturally grows under the shade of high trees. However, many coffee plantations now grow coffee beans in full sunlight. Sun-grown coffee requires more fertilizers and farmers have to clear land which leads to deforestation.
- Improving workers’ rights. Workers in coffee farming and the coffee industry don’t get paid well and often suffer long hours or harsh working conditions.
- Supporting and Improving small coffee farmers by buying Fair Trade
Coffee is often grown by small businesses and the farmers do have a hard time. We discussed how farmers were getting a low price for their coffee crops in our post ‘Farmers Get A Pittance Even When Coffee Price Doubles.’
Vegan Coffee Is Likely A Scam
There is no such thing as ‘Vegan Coffee’ because coffee is naturally vegetarian and vegans don’t need to worry.
If you see a coffee labeled as ‘Vegan Coffee’ then it is probably for advertising, marketing, and likely a ‘clickbait’ strategy.
However, as previously discussed, the way in which some coffee beans are grown and processed may not sit well with the vegetarian/vegan philosophy of ethical business, environment-friendly, and sustainability.
Can Vegans Drink Coffee? Yes! Provided it is black coffee or coffee with non-dairy milk!
If you are a vegan, Ovo-Vegetarian, and Pescatarian Vegetarian then you can’t add cow’s milk or creamers to your coffee. However, you can add so-called ‘alternative milk’ or ‘non-dairy’ milk.
Alternative Milk That Vegetarians Can Use for Coffee
These ‘alternative milk’ or non-dairy milk are not really milk. Milk technically only comes from the mammary glands of a mammal such as cows or goats.
Alternative milk is usually made from nuts or cereals. Vegetarians can eat and drink these milks provided the concerns such as sustainability and environmentalism are covered.
Here are some of the more common vegetarian-friendly alternative milks.
Almond Milk is made by blending water and ground almonds. Most almond milk alternatives are supplemented with vitamins and have lower protein than cow’s milk. Almond milk has a nutty flavor and contains unsaturated fats which makes it creamier and thicker than other milk alternatives. It is a better choice for making flat white, latte, and cappuccino.
How to make Almond Milk? See this article by Minimalist Baker.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following almond milk.
Mooala – Organic Almondmilk, Unsweetened, 1L (Pack of 6) – Shelf-Stable, Non-Dairy, Gluten-Free, Vegan & Plant-Based Beverage with No Added Sugar
Cashew milk is made by blending cashews with water. This milk is low in calories, contains little protein, and may be supplemented with calcium and vitamins.
How to make Cashew Milk? See this article by Downshiftology.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following cashew milk.
Elmhurst 1925 Milked Cashews Sweetened Cashew Milk, Plant-Based, Dairy Free, 32 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Coconut milk is creamy and sweet. It contains as much saturated fat as cow’s milk and this is what makes it creamy. It lacks calcium and has less protein than cow’s milk. Coconut milk is oily and has a stronger taste and may distract from the taste of the coffee.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following coconut milk.
Roots Circle Unsweetened USDA Organic Coconut Milk 6 Pack of 13.5oz Cans | Dairy-Free For Coffee Creamer, Soups Curries Smoothies & Ice Cream | Gluten-Free Kosher Vegan | Kosher for Passover Kitniyot
Hemp milk is made by blending hemp seeds with water. Straining may not be necessary. Hemp milk contains calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. Unfortunately, hemp milk has a taste that some people may not like.
How to make Hemp Milk? Read this article by Downshiftology.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following hemp milk.
Pacific Foods Hemp Original Unsweetened Plant-Based Milk, Keto Friendly, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 12)
Oat milk is made by blending rolled oats and water and then strained to collect the liquid. Oat milk has fewer nutrients than cow’s milk. Unfortunately, steaming oat milk to make a latter, flat white, or cappuccino may make the oat milk slimy.
How to make Oat Milk? Read this article by Minimalist Baker.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following oat milk.
Good Karma Unsweetened Barista Blend Oat Milk Plus Protein and Omega-3, 32 Ounce (Pack of 6), Plant-Based Non-Dairy Milk Alternative, Coffee Creamer with Oats, Flax and Peas, Lactose Free, Vegan, Shelf Stable
Rice milk is made by soaking rice with hot water and then collecting the liquid (‘milk’) by straining through gauze. Rice milk has a neutral flavor, fewer proteins, and is less creamy than other milk. It can be supplemented with calcium and Vitamin D.
How to make Rice Milk? Read this article by Minimalist Baker.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following rice milk.
Koita Italian Rice Milk, Non Dairy, Plant-Based, Non GMO, Vegan, Shelf Stable 1L (6-pack)
Soy milk is popular and it is a high-protein alternative that closely resembles cow’s milk. Sometimes calcium and vitamin D is also added to soy milk. However, soy milk has a nutty taste which may distract from the taste of the coffee beans. Soy milk may also split into a water substance and solid if not properly prepared. How to make soy milk?
How to make Soy Milk? See this article by Simple Vegan Blog.
If you don’t want to make your own then consider the following soy milk.
Pacific Natural Foods Barista Series Soy Blenders, Plain, 32-ounce Containers (3-pack)
Barista Style Alternative Milk
Some companies are now producing plant-based milk alternatives that are more suitable to use in coffee and have labeled these as “barista” style. As you may expect these may be a little more expensive than your ‘ homemade’ alternative milk. You can find examples of these barista-style milks above.
Most powdered coffee creamers are not vegan (e.g. Coffee Mate). However, there are vegan powdered coffee creamer brands that use plant milks instead of cow’s milk such as Kate Naturals Coconut Creamer.
Organic Coconut Milk Powder (12 oz) for Creamer, Coffee, Shakes & Cooking - Kate Naturals - Dairy-Free, Gluten Free, Vegan-Friendly, Keto-Friendly. Unsweetened. Coconut Milk Powder Good for Skin & Boba.
Are Coffee Syrups Vegan?
Generally, syrups like vanilla, caramel, chai, hazelnut, and toffee nut are vegan. However, it is probably best to do your own research or ask the barista when you order a coffee with syrup.
Plant Based Recipes for Coffee and Food
Almost any coffee, without cow’s milk or cream, is a plant-based recipe!
However, if you want something in addition to your coffee, then you can’t go wrong with a fantastic recipe book by Justin Kaye.
Justin Kaye’s Vegan Recipe Cookbook features more than 100 Delicious, Done-for-You Plant-Based Recipes, that are super easy to make. You’ll become your own chef in no time and will keep your family and friends healthy along the way.
Justin shows you how to prepare tasty healthy vegan meals that are also great for fuelling your workouts and helping you lose weight. You will learn every aspect of cooking for healthy living and reaching physique goals.
And it’s more than just a cookbook – “Plant-based Recipe Cookbook” is a complete plant-based nutrition guide full of Cooking tricks, Nutritional Tips and Dieting Strategies…
Now, I’m not a vegetarian but you don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy a healthy breakfast!
If you are a vegetarian then this plant-based recipe cookbook would be an excellent addition to your cookbook library.
A Vegetarian’s Personal Story
Taryn has been a vegetarian for over 12 years and here is her personal story…
Many people transition to a vegetarian diet for various reasons. Ethical, health, weight loss, and lifestyle reason to name a few but no matter what your reason is, there are a few things to consider before you transition, for it can be quite a diﬃcult lifestyle jump for many people.
I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons but over time I have come to see how beneﬁcial it has been to my health. It has opened my eyes to a new world of whole foods that I would never have tried if I was still a meat-eater.
I struggled on a vegetarian diet for a while when I ﬁrst transitioned. A big mistake I made was not doing any research into how to take care of my health. I was depriving my body of vital nutrients because I was not substituting what I had lost from taking out meat.
It’s not as easy as saying ‘no more meat’ and then life will be good from there. The way you cook, how you shop, and going out to eat socially will change. You may need to spend more time in the kitchen at ﬁrst trying to experiment with new recipes and getting used to the ﬂavours of whole foods. Just remember replacing the taste of meat is pretty much impossible. But over time you can come to learn and appreciate whole foods without needing meat to make a meal ‘ ﬂavourful’.
Time, patience, dedication, and a willingness to explore new things is what it takes to transition to a meat-free diet healthily.
I have listed a few of my thoughts that may help you with your transition.
Meat alternatives are just the ﬁrst step
Many people will ﬁnd it hard to go without the taste of meat or will have a hard time coming up with recipes using just whole foods. But alternative meats like Quorn, Beyond Meat, and Yves to name a few, makes it easier to create meat-like meals like spaghetti bolognese, or burgers without having to put much thought into it. The problem is that some meat alternatives can be highly processed meaning they have been signiﬁcantly changed from their original state with salt, sugar, fat, additives, and preservatives and they also may not contain enough beneﬁcial nutrients that the body needs.
To get the full health beneﬁts from becoming vegetarian, meat alternatives should just be used as a stepping stone. It takes time to experiment with whole foods and to adjust your taste buds to a meat free diet so meat free alternatives could help you ease into vegetarianism without too much of a lifestyle shock.
Don’t live oﬀ cheese and bread
Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t exactly mean you are going to be healthier. I struggled a bit with this myself when I ﬁrst transitioned. I didn’t want to completely eliminate all foods at once so I ate a lot of cheese. But my body didn’t like it.
You are taking care of the earth and its animals by turning into a vegetarian (whether that was your intention or not), but just remember to take care of yourself as well!
The whole idea is to be more mindful of what you are putting inside of your body. Try and stay away from highly processed, sugary, and saturated fat foods. You will feel better about it!
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Becoming a vegetarian means you may have to try things you’ve never eaten before and that can be daunting. Take your time with it, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.
Try to slowly introduce these things into your diet. I thought tofu was bland and the texture rubbery when I ﬁrst tried it. However, over time I got used to the taste and it helped me to experiment with many recipes using spices and sauces to transform the tofu into magical tasting goodness.
Vegetarians don’t need to eat plainly
I think it’s a common misconception that vegetarian foods are bland. For some reason, people may think that vegetarians don’t like sauces or spices when they are important flavor enhancers for vegetarian foods.
Just think of Indian foods for example. Very ﬂavourful and very satisfying! A good range of spices in your pantry can turn the blandest meals into something delectable.
My View of Coffee
I love to drink black coffee. It gives me a much-needed energy boost. I also like to try different coffees and different ways of brewing coffee. I sometimes like to add almond milk to give a creamy texture to coffee.
I know coffee is naturally vegetarian. However, I am concerned about the way coffee is grown, how farming may affect climate change, and that farming doesn’t use harmful chemicals and is sustainable.
I’m also concerned that the coffee farmers get the best deal for their coffee and can live a good life. Hopefully, the Fair Trade certification can help with this.
A vegetarian diet is totally feasible while still getting your daily nutrients. But you will just have to be a bit more aware of what you consume so you stay healthy!
You should never feel judged for what you eat. For some people, it is too hard to transition to a fully meat-free diet for health and time constraint reasons.
Some things I can suggest are transitioning to pescetarianism which is like a vegetarian but you can eat seafood.
Even just cutting down on your meat consumption by a little can help a lot! If you eat meat 3 times a day, start by cutting it down to once a day and then a few times a week to just the weekend.
Whatever your choice is, remember your health comes ﬁrst!
You can drink coffee as a vegetarian and you don’t need to worry about it being ‘vegan coffee’. You just need to ensure that you drink black coffee or coffee with alternative milk.
As a vegetarian, you may also want to consider if coffee is produced ethically, and sustainably, with concern for the environment, and with concern for farmers and workers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is instant coffee vegan?
Ground coffee can be freeze-dried to produce granules or powder that is soluble in hot water. There has been a concern in some quarters about the nature of the additives that are contained in some instant coffees but it is very rare for instant coffee to be made using any animal products.
Is Decaffeinated Coffee Vegan?
Coffee beans can have their caffeine-containing oils removed with the use of solvents prior to roasting. The still-green seeds are soaked in hot water or steamed and their oils are dissolved in the solvents. These solvents, which include methylene dichloride and ethyl acetate, might not sound overly appealing, but they are not produced from animal products, so their use does not stop decaf coffee being vegan.
Are Coffee Pods Vegan?
The coffee contained within these pods is as vegan-friendly as the ground coffee you might put in your cafetière. Some pods – for example those for cappuccinos – may contain milk products, so they are clearly not vegan. There is also some concern about the environmental impact of the additional waste caused by the packaging, but that is another story.
Is Coffee Beneficial to a Vegan Diet?
Coffee has some incredible benefits but coffee can also have some problems. We have outlined these benefits and problems in our posts..8 Benefits and 6 Cons of Coffee On Your Health, Is Coffee Good For You?
Coffee may help you live longer.
In any case, you should monitor the amount of caffeine you drink. Use our Caffeine Calculator to find out how much coffee and caffeine you are drinking.
Can Coffee Help You Lose Fat?
The answer to this is maybe. Please see our post on Drink Coffee and Lose Weight with Java Burn.
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