Of all the places that gluten can be hiding, would you expect tea? Me neither! This is one area I did not look into as a celiac, and I am very sure this was one of the products I was consuming daily that had me cross contaminated with gluten.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. Hidden sources of gluten can have substantial consequences for anyone suffering from celiac disease (also spelt coeliac disease) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (also known as gluten intolerance). Even just one grain of gluten can provoke gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, joint pain, migraines or headaches, brain fog and a long list of other health symptoms. Doing regular ingredient list checks and asking for preparation details at restaurants can help to limit any cross contamination of gluten.
Tea leaves have gluten?
So what’s the deal with tea and gluten contamination? Well, first things first – Most teas come from the leaves off of the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is naturally gluten free, it is when added flavourings and other ingredients are added that can put this food source off of the gluten free list.
Most flavourings used contain barley seeds such as Boricha which is a type of Korean tea. Any teas that are ‘malted’ may contain gluten as malt is commonly made from barley. Fun fact, the FDA labeling laws does not declare barely, rye and malt as allergens on labels here in Canada and the USA. On top of that, anything containing “flavouring” in the ingredient list can also be a hidden source of gluten. Be sure to contact the manufacturing company to be sure the flavouring does not contain any hidden gluten ingredients like barley malt. However, if the flavouring does contain wheat, this has to be declared on the label as per the Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Therefore, be sure to ALWAYS read the labels of anything you are buying from the store, especially if it is not labeled “gluten free” or have a certified gluten free symbol on the packaging.
Herbal teas may contain flavourings or other ingredients and grains containing gluten. Matcha tea which is a ground up green tea, can sometimes have wheat added as a filler. As mentioned before, start a regular practice of ALWAYS checking the labels of foods you want to purchase to see if it is containing any hidden gluten.
What’s the deal with tea bags?
You may have heard that tea bags can potentially contain hidden sources of gluten, unfortunately, that would be correct. Some tea bags can be sealed with a paste that is made with wheat. Therefore, if you like to use tea bags, I would contact the tea company and ask how the tea bags are sealed. Another option, is switching to using loose leaf tea and having a tea filter for steeping, but make sure there are no gluten containing ingredients in the loose leaf tea.
Can cross contamination happen with tea?
It most certainly can, cross-contamination is a common cause of gluten contamination in tea. This can start a the factories they are processed at. If an ingredient with gluten was on the line before the tea you will be consuming it could potentially transfer over into the tea. Another common place of cross-contamination with tea is at the cafe or at home. If the server, a friend or family member at the cafe or even at home uses the same spoon or container that was just used for something with gluten and uses it in your tea, this can potentially transfer gluten into your tea as well. To avoid this from happening, do not share your cups, tea filters and spoons with someone who is not gluten free. Also, be sure the equipment you use to prepare and drink your tea is completely clean.
What tea is gluten free?
After all of that, you may be thinking there are no teas left that are safe for someone with celiac disease and gluten free. However! The good news, there are plenty of options. Sticking to teas made from simple ingredients, such as black, oolong, green, and rooibos tea are all naturally gluten free, so long as they do not have any other added ingredients as mentioned above. Also, using loose leaf tea will take away the possibility of gluten in the tea bags. It is also in my opinion, a better quality and more flavourful tea. On top of that, using a loose leaf tea will help to decrease the environmental waste of the tea bags. Here is a chart to make things a bit more simple in deciding about what tea to get:
|Naturally Gluten-Free||May Contain Gluten||Contains Gluten|
|Pure black tea||Flavored tea||Barley seed tea|
|Pure green tea||Chai tea||Boricha tea (Korean tea)|
|Pure white tea||Herbal tea||Malted tea|
|Pure oolong tea||Matcha tea|
|Pure puerh tea||Sprouted seed tea|
|Pure rooibos tea|
All in all, tea is a great beverage to be enjoyed. Follow what was mentioned above and you should be good to go to have a great gluten free cuppa!
If you are curious what tea companies contain and do not contain gluten? Click here for the full post.
Signing off until next time,
LEW xxx 🙂
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