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Magen Avraham on Orach Chaim 202:22 (excerpt):

Magen Avraham 202:22:

(ב"י רשב"א) ומיהו בפירות יבשים כגון תפוחים ואגסים וגדגדניו' ופלומי"ן ד"ה דמברך אמימיהן בפה"ע דהא אין דרכן אלא למשלקינהו לא למכלינהו בעינייהו וכן אני נוהג ועיקר (ב"ח) וצ"ע דמשמע דטע' הרשב"א משום דדרכן למשלקינהו מעיקרא נטעי להו אדעתא דהכי למשלקינהו ואם כן פירות דלא נטעי להו אדעת' דהכי אף על פי שיבשן אח"כ לא מהני וכ"כ הלבוש דדוק' פירות שרוב אכילתן ע"י בישול מברך בפה"ע (עסט"ו) וכן מ"כ בשם רש"ל:‏

My summary / translation:

Dried fruit such as apples, pears and plums that are poached in water you say "Borei Pri Ha'etz" on drinking their water (juice), and this is how I behave.

Explaining Rashb"a, he states that if the fruit was planted with the initial purpose that they be consumed via poaching / cooking, the bracha should be "Ha'etz"

Tea and coffee are not normally consumed as whole plants. Tea leaves and coffee beans are soaked in water, and it would seem that this was their purpose of being planted (that it would be consumed this way). Based on the above logic, their bracha should be "Ha'etz" when drinking a cup of tea or coffee. Yet the majority custom, AFAIK, is to say "Shehakol". Why?

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From: Kof-K

The halacha is if one takes a vegetable etc and cooks it the beracha on the water is the same beracha as the vegetable, etc.1 Therefore, the beracha on coffee should be an ha’etz. However, the custom is that the beracha recited on coffee (in the liquid state) is shehakol.2 Some say the reason is because the water is the main ingredient.3

  1. Mesechtas Berochos 39a, Shulchan Aruch 205:1.
  2. Halachos Ketanos 1:9, Shevus Yaakov 2:5, Birchei Yosef 202:9, Ben Ish Chai Pinchus 1:10, Be’er Heitiv 202:19, Sheilas Yaavetz 2:142, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 53:3, Kaf Ha’chaim 202:70, Pachad Yitzchok (Cofffee) 7:page 60, Rivevos Ephraim 5:148, Yalkut Yosef 3:page 338:14, Chazzon Ovadia (Tu B’shevat) pages 282-283, Piskei Teshuvos 202:28, Rivevos Ephraim 6:79, Sharei Ha’beracha 17:44 and pages 680-681:footnote 654. If one recited ha’etz he was yotzei (Opinion of the Yabea Omer quoted in Yalkut Yosef ibid page 339, see V’sein Beracha page 450:footnote 21 who says this is not true for instant coffee). See Panim M’eros 1:95, 190. Refer to Pnei Ha’shulchan pages 178-180.
  3. Refer to Pnei Ha’shulchan page 179, see Shulchan Aruch Harav 202:12, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 53:3, Yechaveh Da’as 4:42.

If memory serves, I believe Rav Moshe Feinstein, z"l, wrote something similar. See also: http://www.halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Bracha_on_Coffee_and_Tea

The Rosh [13]writes that this Halacha of the Gemarah is not an absolute rule. The water does not always take the identity of the vegetable itself, and in some cases the Berachah on the water would remain a Shehakol. Rosh explains that the water will only acquire a new Berachah-identity if, and only if, one is cooking the soup in order to eat the vegetables also. It is then that the water can be viewed as being one with the vegetables and allow it to be viewed as having become part of the “greater soup”. It is in such a case that the Berachah will be the same as the vegetable itself. However, if one is only cooking the vegetable so that the water should be infused with its taste, and not because he also wants to eat the vegetables, then he would only recite a Shehakol on the water as the water retains its own identity, albeit with a better taste; it’s just a cup of flavored water.

Perach Mateh Aharon[14] writes that it is based on the reasoning of the Rosh that we recite a Shehakol on coffee, tea and even beer because the tea leaves are not being eaten, the coffee grinds are definitely going to be thrown out and nary a hop will ever be found in a bottle of beer. The whole intention of the cooking process in solely for the resultant drink and not for the tea leaves, beans and hops at all. So while it is true that the tea leaf and the coffee bean and the hops are boiled in the water, and it is true that from the simple understanding of the Gemarah the water should have required an upgraded berachah. However, when you apply the Rosh’s qualification of this Halachah it allows for, and even encourages, the general custom to recite a Shehakol on a nice steaming cup of a morning Starbucks coffee[15](see footnote) as one is only focused on the drink itself and not anything else. On the other hand, the Panim Meiros counters that tea and coffee are in a different class when it comes to this Halachah. Tea leaves and coffee are planted, cultivated, roasted and ground in order to produce this drink. This is the end result and the bottom line for the tea and coffee; it was produced for just this purpose and is only edible in this state. So, of course the water in which the coffee/tea was boiled will take on a greater significance than just being flavored water, whereupon it will take upon itself the berachah of the tea leaf or the coffee bean, as this is what they were grown for.

The Panim Meiros has put forth a seemingly strong halachic argument and brought many proofs to support his case[16]. However, he ends off his responsa by stating that the beracha on coffee and tea still remains a Shehakol as this has been the minhag of the Jews for as long as he can remember and the minhag is not going to change, therefore, he too only recited a Shehakol on coffee and tea. In addition, many of the gedolim of his era, such as the Beis Meir[17], and the Shvus Yaakov[18]differed with the Panim Meiros’ understanding of the Rosh and were of the opinion that the correct berachah on these beverages are a Shehakol.

  1. Shaalos U’Teshuvos HaRosh Klal 4, siman 15. Also in the Rosh’s Halachos in Masechta Berachos on Daf 39a.
  2. Rav Aharon Hakohen Perachia (1627-1697). Wrote the Sefer- Perech Mateh Aharon, appointed chief rabbi of Salonika in 1688.
  3. This is referring to home-brewed Starbucks coffee. As of late there has been much written about the kashrus of the general Starbucks stores since that they have started to serve non kosher, indeed treif, heated items in their stores. Although the unflavored, and some of the flavored, ground coffee is under a very reliable hashgacha, the treif elements of the store might affect the kashrus of various special drinks the stores have to offer. For an excellent overview of the kashrus concerns and solutions see their article 1. The Star-K kashrus organization have also published their recommendations and guide to Starbucks coffee is the latest issue of their “Kashrus kurrents” publication. You can view it at their website www.star-k.org.
  4. See Panim Meiros chelek 2, Siman 190 for an extensive Torah essay on this subject.
  5. Beit Meir 205:2
  6. Shevut Yacov 2:5
  • I never thought that the response would be this complex, with so many sources! Thanks for summarizing. It seems that enough Rabbanim over time must have drunk a lot of coffee while they were pondering this question. Too bad Starbucks wasn't around to profit :-) – DanF Nov 5 '15 at 16:09

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