Is Coffee Vegan?

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Most days don’t begin without coffee. However, if you’ve gone vegan, you might be wondering if your favorite beverage suits your new diet, or whether you need to find another form of caffeine to get you through the day. 

Everyone knows that coffee derives from roasted beans, but the intricate processes behind making coffee might hinder your opinion on whether it’s actually vegan or not.

You’ve also got to consider the ingredients that you add to your coffee, including types of milk and sweeteners. 

If you’re wondering “is coffee vegan?”, you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about whether coffee is vegan or not!

So, Is Coffee Vegan?

Let’s cut to the chase – yes, coffee is vegan! If you’re starting out as a vegan and you’re afraid you’ll miss out on beautiful coffee, fear not. 

The reason why coffee is inherently vegan is that harvesting and roasting coffee beans does not involve anything to do with animals.

In fact, the beans derive from the Coffea plant, meaning that coffee is a plant-based drink that contains no animal by-products. 

Is All Coffee Vegan? 

In the vast majority of cases, all coffee is vegan. So, it’s always a bit redundant when the coffee bag says “100% vegan”, because virtually every type of coffee doesn’t contain any animal by-products.

However, there is one exception to this rule. Kopi luwak is a traditional Vietnamese coffee that people will often spend large amounts of money on from around the world.

Marketed as “the world’s most expensive coffee”, vegans need to steer clear of kopi luwak, because it is actually inherently non-vegan. 

To put it simply, kopi luwak coffee beans are partially digested by civets (a cat-like mammal) and then defecated out.

The reason for this is that the digestive enzymes of the civet work to change the protein structure of the beans, resulting in a smoother and less acidic cup of coffee. 

While some might argue that the beans still technically don’t contain animal by-products, you’ve got to consider the ethical implications.

Civets are forcefully fed these beans in tiny cages, with the coffee cherries being their only form of food. The wire floor means the animals have to stand upright 24/7, and they have no space to move. 

Not only this, but traditional Vietnamese coffee is often roasted with additives such as fish sauce or butter to add more flavor. 

So, if you’re a coffee-loving vegan with a flair for expensive international coffee beans, you might want to think twice about Vietnamese coffee.

Vegan Coffee Milk And Syrups

While the coffee itself might be vegan, what you add to the drink will determine whether it’s appropriate for a vegan to consume.

Fortunately, we live in a world of endless dairy-free milk alternatives that are great for coffee, including oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. 

As long as you stay away from dairy milk and cream, you’re fine to drink coffee as a vegan. Keep this in mind when you’re ordering coffee at a coffee shop, however, because some baristas might forget to say that your desired drink includes dairy whipped cream.

To be on the safe side, always ensure that you tell the barista that you are vegan. The same rules apply to syrups. Some coffee syrups are vegan, while others aren’t, so it’s important to know which ones are suitable for your diet. 

The general rule of thumb is that the thin syrups (such as vanilla, hazelnut, chai, toffee, caramel, and hazelnut) are all vegan, whereas the thicker syrups (crème brûlée, pumpkin spice, caramel drizzle, and white mocha) are not.

This is because they contain animal by-products such as milk or honey. So, it’s important to keep this in mind when ordering your next coffee. If in doubt, always ask the barista to confirm which syrups and milks are vegan!

Is Coffee Ethically Vegan? 

While some vegans characterize their diet by not consuming any form of animal by-products, others will take it one step further.

Ethical vegans will look into the ethics of certain foods, drinks, and products to determine whether they feel morally obligated to boycott them. 

Coffee can be a bit of a gray area for some ethical vegans. While coffee is vegan, the sustainability factor is something that some vegans will debate on regularly.

Some vegans will research the ethics of each coffee company to understand their impact on the environment, including companies that damage rainforests with their harvesting practices. 

The ethics of buying and consuming coffee also go as far as how the workers are paid and treated. Some vegans will associate buying a coffee from an unsustainable and unethical brand to be the same as aligning yourself with them, which they will avoid. 

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find out whether a certain brand of coffee is ethically vegan or not. Coffee that is ethically sourced will be labeled as organic-certified and sometimes even fair-trade, which proves that they provide their workers with a suitable wage and working environment. 

Another conversation about the ethics of coffee is the brand’s packaging. Some vegans won’t feel comfortable buying coffee in a cheaply made plastic packaging (whether as beans or a takeaway cup), and instead will prefer to buy biodegradable or recyclable packaging. 

So, if you are an ethical vegan, here are the key things to look out for in coffee that will align with your beliefs:

  • Fully biodegradable packaging
  • Championing worker’s rights
  • Shade-grown beans
  • LEED standard energy-efficient factory

Shade-grown beans are particularly great for ethical vegans, as the coffee farms are grown in a way that produces a liveable habitat for local wildlife. Instead of destroying rainforests, these farms work to coexist and support the ecosystem. 


So, there you have it! In a nutshell, all coffee is vegan – but it’s always worth looking into the production of the beans and the ethics of the company that you are buying from. You’ve also got to remember to only add vegan-friendly products to your coffee, such as vegan milk and syrups. 

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