Q. I have heard that all varieties of beans are kitniyot and may not be eaten (by Ashkenazim) on Pesach. Why then is it that coffee beans and cocoa beans are not kitniyot?
A. Although there are many reasons given for the minhag of not eating kitniyot on Pesach, none of them apply to coffee and cocoa. Kitniyot refers to grains and beans that in some way resemble the five grains (wheat, barley, rye, oat and spelt) that can become chametz.
Among the reasons given are that they physically resemble the five grains, are used to make breads and cereals that could be confused as chametz, or are merely grown and harvested in a manner similar to those grains. This includes all beans, peas, rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, even sunflowers (partial list).
However, coffee beans and cocoa beans are not really beans. They are actually the seeds of a fruit that grows on a tree. They are not harvested in a manner similar to the five grains, nor are they used to bake bread.
Nonetheless, Sharei Teshuva (Orach Chaim 453:1) cites one opinion that because coffee beans resemble other beans, one should refrain from drinking coffee on Pesach. However, this is a minority opinion which is not commonly followed.
This column is from OU Kosher’s Halacha Yomis daily column in memory of Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Reb Dov HaLevy Belsky, zt’l Senior OU Kosher Halachic Consultant (1987-2016).
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