Are Coffee and Tea Gluten Free?

It’s Beans and Leaves Right? Well, Not Always.


Let’s start with what you need to know about tea:

Besides being delicious and high in antioxidants, traditional plain tea is made of leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is naturally gluten-free. However, not all teas are made from Camellia sinensis, and some have gluten-containing ingredients added to them for a variety of reasons. For example, some teas contain barley malt as a sweetener or avouring. It really is essential to check the ingredients before you take a sip.

Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea enjoy a variety of tea which is made from roasted barley, so you may want to ask what exactly you are getting when ordering tea at a restaurant featuring Asian cuisine to be safe.

Another consideration is the tea bag itself that some teas are sold in. Some tea companies use a wheat paste to seal their tea bags; so, although the tea itself may be gluten-free, it may be wrapped in a gluten- covered delivery system. Yuck! Be sure to check your labels, and don’t be shy when it comes to contacting a tea company to ask for details.

Coffee is an interesting one, and an important consideration if you’ve been eating gluten-free and are still experiencing gluten-like symptoms. For some people, the proteins in coffee are perceived by the body as invaders in the same way gluten is. Dairy is another example of this “cross-reactive” type of food for those with gluten issues because of its casein proteins.

The Food and Nutritional Sciences publication printed a study by Aristo Vojdani and Igal Tarash in 2013 which examined this further. What researchers found was that processed coffees like instant and ground coffees produced the most cross-reactivity. Organic, whole-been coffees did not produce cross-reactivity issues. More research is needed, but it’s thought that the proteins in coffee are changed during processing in such a way that the body perceives them as a threat and causes the same in ammatory responses and symptoms as gluten in those with a gluten sensitivity.

One method of seeing if your body is sensitive is to remove coffee from your diet for at least two weeks (sorry!) and then re-introduce it into your day to see if you produce any symptoms. If you do react, you may want to consider switching to organic whole bean coffee and seeing if this eliminates your symptoms. Also, always talk with your health care specialist regarding any symptoms you’re experienced before you go and re-introduce coffee into your diet.



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