Tia Maria is a sweet liquor with a strong coffee profile and a complex aromatic structure, that reminds me of Kahlua, another popular liquor used in the preparation of cocktails. However, there are some differences between them, namely the fact that they use coffee beans from different origins.
Tia Maria is made with the following ingredients: coffee beans, Jamaican rum, Madagascar vanilla, and sugar, blended with an alcoholic content of 20%. Rum may raise some eyebrows but I can assure you that is always vegan because it’s distilled, and it doesn’t need to be fined like other beverages such as beer or champagne.
But even so, it’s vital to seek answers from the actual manufacturers to understand whether or not their product is, in fact, suitable for vegans. We’ve contacted Tia Maria, and they indicate that their liquor is vegan.
Why wouldn’t Tia Maria be vegan?
I’ve briefly mentioned in the introduction that some drinks (namely wine, champagne, and beer) are often fined using animal ingredients, more specifically isinglass, which is essentially a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. Given this method, it was important to rule out its use in rum.
However, more importantly, as we’ve seen in the past with Kahlua, even though beverages apparently only contain plant-derived ingredients, there’s a chance that they might not be.
Related: Can Vegans Actually Drink Champagne?
Some refined sugar is not vegan
I know this might sound hard to believe for some people, but it’s true. Some sugar, namely white and brown sugar extracted from sugar cane may not be vegan.
Unfortunately, some suppliers (in the sugar industry) use a property often referred to as natural carbon. This property also goes by another name which is bone char.
Bone char is a black powder that is used as a decolorizing agent by sugar suppliers to provide sugar with its white, pristine color. However, bone char is actually obtained from animals. In fact, it is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at really high temperatures, until the bones disintegrate into small particles that can be used to process, filter, and bleach cane sugar.
However, what’s important to emphasize is that a lot of the brands (i.e: Oreos, Ghirardelli) can’t exactly trace back the sugar to its origin, so you don’t know which products contain sugar processed with bone char. These companies, most of the time, have a mixed pool of suppliers, and some of them will have used bone char.
The good news is that the sugar in Tia Maria is vegan – at least according to the information that they’ve shared with us in an email.
Keep in mind that not all sugar is processed with bone char
Yes, it’s important to point out that not all sugar is processed with bone char. For instance, the sugar derived from beets is always vegan, because, like rum, it doesn’t require a process in which animal ingredients are used to remove inorganic impurities. An example of a brand that uses sugar derived from beets is Red Bull.
Also, there are suppliers that use cane sugar but don’t rely on bone char. Yes, alternatives like ion-exchange resins and activated charcoal exist, and suppliers are increasingly using those alternatives.
However, if you really want to determine whether or not the sugar in a product is vegan, you must inevitably get in contact with the brand behind the product, otherwise, you won’t find that information anywhere on the label.
This is, unless, you notice that the company uses organic sugar, which is always vegan.
Bottom line: Tia Maria is suitable for vegans
Indeed, Tia Maria is a liquor that is made from plant-based ingredients, and according to the manufacturer, it’s 100% suitable for vegans. In some cases, a product will contain ingredients that may have been processed or fined with animal ingredients, but with Tia Maria, that is not the case.
For that reason, we can safely conclude that Tia Maria is vegan, and you don’t have to worry about its use in cocktails/mixtures unless those cocktails also include other animal derivatives (i.e: honey).