Enjoying a cup of gluten-free tea can be calming and healing. Whether it’s giving you a boost of energy, helping you connect with a loved one, or even nourishing your spirit, it’s a coveted beverage around the globe.
Personally, enjoying a cup of mint tea when I’m bloating has been a powerful tool for my gluten-exposure symptoms. Additionally, enjoying a cup of chai with my partner in the afternoons has been a great way for us to connect.
And while most ingredients in tea are gluten-free, tea is not always safe for a gluten-free diet. In this post, we’ll talk about the different types of tea, when they’re gluten-free, common GF USA tea brands, where to order GF tea, and the specific benefits of tea for those with celiac.
But first, were you ever taught how to identify gluten properly on a food label? If not, sign up for my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I show you EXACTLY what you need to look for on a food label to stay celiac-safe in the USA. Stop stressing over grocery shopping in just 4-simple steps with this FREE training!
When talking about if tea is gluten-free, we first need to know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.
In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.
Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.
Before we can get into if tea is gluten-free, we also need to know what it is. Tea often comes from the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis. However, it can also come from herbs, spices, and fruit.
Regardless of what it’s made of, the blends are steeped in water to make the beverage we call tea. It has been drunk in China since 2700 BCE. It was believed to be medicinal. By the 13th century AD, it spread to Japan.
Cultivation of the tea plant was brought to Java by the Dutch during the 1800s. Around the same time, the British started cultivating the tea plant in India which is still a major producer today.
In China, a ritual around drinking tea was formed. While drinking tea, attention is paid to the environment, atmosphere, music, and interpersonal relationships. In England, it is a tradition to drink tea at breakfast and in the afternoon.
Personally, I grew up watching my grandparents enjoy morning coffee, and afternoon tea together. This is a tradition I plan to continue with my partner.
Now that we know tea comes in many forms, we also need to familiarize ourselves with the different types in order to determine which teas are gluten-free.
Most tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The different types of tea are a result of different types of processing. There are also herbal teas as well. Below are the different types of tea to be aware of.
Tea is a commonly consumed beverage around the globe. The different kinds of teas stem from the different manufacturing processes. There are also herbal teas.
Now that we know what tea is, is tea gluten-free? The simple answer? Like most things, it depends on how it’s prepared and what ingredients are used.
Pure tea from the plant camellia sinensis is gluten-free. The question then does it contain gluten from other added ingredients or cross-contact.
When checking if a tea is gluten-free you’re looking for any signs of gluten on the label. This involves checking for the “BROW” ingredients. Which are any ingredients derived from Barley, Rye, Oats (in certain cases), and Wheat. For more help with this, check out my free label-reading class.
It’s also important to note that in general, cross-contact and gluten contamination risk is low with most foods. However, in the 2010s, a major supplier of green tea was found to have contaminated green teas.
That said, when tested, dried leaves did have amounts above 20 ppm but when brewed in tea bags, the amount was below 20 ppm according to the Gluten-Free Watchdog.
Please note that there’s a lot that complicates the testing of tea for gluten. Many at-home test kits are unreliable, and whether you test the tea leaves vs. the brewed tea matters. Be cautious of the kits and if you want more on this, read my blog post on the Gluten Nima Sensor where I talk about the pros and cons of these kits.
This is believed to be because gluten is not very water-soluble and the tea bag kept most of it inside. This does not mean you should drink tea that you know contains gluten rather, when possible, choose bagged tea.
It’s also important to note that this data is from 2015 when a large supplier has green tea contaminated with gluten. This may have changed. When in doubt though, tea steeped in bags should be safe based on current data but assess the suitability and safety for yourself.
For the purpose of this post, if tea does not contain gluten ingredients, I will consider it to be gluten-free. You may choose to use stricter protocols and if you have questions, definitely talk to your celiac healthcare team.
Now that we know most tea is gluten-free, what about milk tea? Milk tea is a specialty beverage. Many milk teas exist. It is usually a black tea made with milk and sometimes sweeteners. Certain ones may be sweetened with a special brown sugar or with honey.
They can vary according to the variety of tea and region from which it’s harvested. They can vary by the region in which they are drunk. For example, in Korea, milk tea is usually made with soy milk. However, in the US it is made with cow’s milk. In the British Isles, a strong black tea with a splash of milk is enjoyed.
Because it’s usually some kind of milk, tea, and sweetener, it’s usually gluten-free. However, you’ll want to check on the specific ingredients, as oat milk isn’t always gluten-free and other ingredients like natural flavors may contain gluten if present.
What about green tea, is it gluten-free? Green tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant leaves which are harvested and then quickly heated by frying or steaming them. It has a distinct green color and astringent flavor. Green tea has 30-50mg of caffeine per cup vs. 80-100 mg for coffee.
Because the ingredients usually just read: green tea, it’s usually gluten-free. That said, remember that back in the early 2010s, there was a supplier from china that had contaminated green tea. It’s unknown if this is still an issue today but if you’re buying tea in tea bags, you should be safe based on the data we have today.
Common brands that come in tea bag form include Lipton, Yogi, and Twinnings. I personally buy off-brand green tea bags as long as the only ingredient is green tea.
Another popular gluten-free tea is Matcha! Matcha is a type of green tea. Matcha is popular for the strong astringent taste it has. It is also popular because of the health effects on reduction in cancer, coronary heart disease, and mortality in general. See “Benefits of Tea” later in this blog.
Matcha is made in three ways: from a powder, from loose leaves, or from a tea bag. In Asia, the powder or loose-leaf versions are most popular while tea bags are more popular in the US. Green tea such as Matcha has 30-50mg of caffeine per cup vs. 80-100 mg for coffee.
It is naturally gluten-free but may be contaminated with gluten. If you’re unsure how to assess risk via labels, be sure to check out my Free USA Label Reading Class. Otherwise, buy the kind in tea bags to be safe
Now that we know most matcha tea is gluten-free, is Starbucks Matcha safe? The ingredients of Starbucks’ Matcha Tea drinks are as follows:
I would consider their Matcha Tea to be gluten-free but there is a risk if you get it with oat milk that’s not safe or if the steam pitcher or shaker is contaminated. From my own experience, generally, all of their pitchers are rinsed before making different drinks rather than washed which could be a point of contamination.
If you choose to drink it you should ask your barista to grab a new clean pitcher (or wash the current one with soap and water) and change their gloves to make your order.
As with all restaurants, safety-level, preparation methods, and willingness to accommodate varies greatly by location. Always be sure to do your own research and assess suitability for yourself. For more help with ordering gluten-free at Starbucks, check out this guide.
Now that we know most green teas are gluten-free, what about sweet tea? To understand if it’s gluten-free, we need to know how it’s made.
To make sweet tea, you take black tea and brew it along with a lot of sugar and then you chill it. If you’re making it yourself, as long as all of the ingredients you’re using are gluten-free, then it’s gluten-free.
If you’re buying it, the trickiest thing to watch out for would be “natural flavors” in the ingredients which on rare occasions can be derived from gluten in the USA. Arizona Tea Company and Honest Tea list in their website FAQ that their teas are gluten-free. More on other gluten-free sweat teas to buy later on…
While sweet tea is usually gluten-free, what about chai? In India, chai refers to just tea. However, in the USA, we often use chai to refer to a black tea drink made with spices.
The chai we know in America originated from and is popular in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The spices used in it are supposed to be healing according to their ancient natural medicine called Ayurveda.
We do know that many of the spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in the tea are carminative. This means that they relieve gas and soothe intestinal discomfort.
Chai is generally gluten-free but you’ll always want to check the ingredients. Watch out for “natural flavorings” in the ingredients as those have a small chance of containing gluten.
Now that we know chai is a spiced tea that is usually gluten-free, is Starbucks Chai gluten-free? The Chai ingredients are an Infusion of [Water, Black Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Star Anise, Cloves, and Cardamom Essence] all of which are gluten-free.
The Chai Latte ingredients are milk, water, chai tea concentrate (water, black tea, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, natural flavors, star anise), sugar, honey, ginger juice, natural flavors, vanilla, and citric acid.
The natural flavorings in the latte have a small chance of containing gluten in the USA. I contacted corporate and could not get an answer on if they were gluten-free or not. However, because in other cases Starbucks makes it clear when gluten derivatives are used in flavorings, I feel comfortable drinking this drink. Assess suitability and risk for yourself.
Be aware that if you order a hot chai latte from Starbucks, it is made in a steam pitcher with a steam wand. Ask them to wash the pitcher with soap and thoroughly wipe down the steam wand before making yours.
As with all restaurants, safety-level, preparation methods, and willingness to accommodate varies greatly by location. Always be sure to do your own research and assess suitability for yourself. For more help with ordering gluten-free at Starbucks, check out this guide.
Next up, does barley tea contain gluten? Barley is a grain that contains gluten (remember the BROW acronym we talked about earlier).
Barley is used to make malt flavoring and sweeteners. Some natural flavorings in ingredients are made with barley. Additionally, barley can be used to make malt, malt extract, and malt vinegar.
Barley tea is a beverage made of an infusion from roasted grain barley. It has a toasty bitter flavor. It originates in Asia and is a popular drink there even supplanting drinking water. It is drunk hot or cold. It is not gluten-free.
Last up on our exploration of the gluten-free status of tea is herbal tea. Herbal tea is made with various herbs instead of the camellia sinensis plant.
Some people drink herbal teas because they don’t contain caffeine. Herbal teas can also be used for medicinal purposes. For example, I like to enjoy mint tea when I’m bloated because it helps relieve gas (more on the medicinal properties of tea later).
It is usually gluten-free but always check the label. When checking the label you’ll want to look for gluten-free markings and the ingredients. Some ingredients to watch out for are barley, oats, and other gluten-containing things.
You’ll also want to check on natural flavorings as these can rarely contain gluten. So if it says natural flavorings, check with the manufacturer to see if they are gluten-free. For more help on what to look for on food labels in the USA, be sure to check out my Free USA Label Reading Class. That said, most herbal tea is gluten-free.
Now that we know most tea is gluten-free as long as it’s prepared safely and made with gluten-free ingredients, let’s talk about Boba. Boba tea is a specialty beverage. It is a black tea made with milk, flavorings, tapioca pearls, and sweeteners.
The tapioca pearls are what make this tea my favorite. I love chewing on them as I sip the tea.
Often boba is gluten-free but there is a rare chance that it’s made with natural flavors that contain gluten. Additionally, sometimes they can contain malt syrup or cookies (like in the Oreo Slush from Kung Fu Tea).
If you’re making it at home, check that you’re using gluten-free ingredients. If you’re ordering it from a boba tea shop, check to make sure the options you’re ordering are safe.
Generally a green or black tea made with milk, simple syrup, and boba should be safe. Again, always check and assess safety for yourself.
Now that we know many boba teas are gluten-free, which boba shops can you order at? Below is a summary of my findings:
My favorite tea place is Kung Fu Tea because they are the clearest about they’re gluten-free options, but I usually can find something gluten-free at most boba tea shops.
Keep in mind that these options, ingredients, and safety are subject to change. Always evaluate safety and suitability for yourself.
While usually regular boba tea is gluten-free, what about popping boba? Popping boba is a beverage made with flavorings and big pearls made of sodium alginate and either calcium chloride or calcium lactate. You bite into the pearls and they burst or pop with flavor.
These are different from the usual tapioca pearls that are gluten-free in boba. Despite the differences, most popping pearls I’ve seen are gluten-free. If you’re looking for some to enjoy at home, Joyba makes delicious teas with popping boba. That said, be sure to always check the label!
Now that we know most tea is gluten-free, let’s talk about how to generally order safe gluten-free tea from coffee shops. For the most part, the cross-contact risk is low.
The biggest thing to check is if the tea is made with oat milk. Not all oat milk is considered gluten-free so you’ll want to check on that. Note: cross-contact with oat milk is of minimal concern but do what you’re most comfortable with.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the teas you order do not contain gluten. If a tea does contain gluten, it’s most often in the form of unsafe oats or barley. There’s also a chance they may contain natural flavors which rarely contain gluten.
Lastly, you’ll want to manage cross-contact. Generally, cross-contact risk is low but depending on what’s on the menu, you may want to take special precautions. To learn more about this, check out my guide to ordering coffee shop drinks.
Now that we know how to order gluten-free tea, let’s talk about which teas at the store are safe. Yogi Tea, Stash Tea, Twinings, Peace Tea, and Gold Peak all make gluten-free teas.
Tazo, Lipton, and Pure Leaf are not claiming to be gluten-free but their ingredients appear to be. Arizona it depends on the product. Twisted is not gluten-free. We’ll get into the details below.
That said, keep in mind that ingredients and manufacturing can change. Always assess safety and suitability for yourself. If you’re unsure how to assess risk via labels, be sure to check out my Free USA Label Reading Class. Otherwise, buy the kind in tea bags to be safe.
First up on the list of tea brands with gluten-free tea is Tazo Tea. Tazo was founded in 1994 in Oregon. Tazo is committed to fighting against environmental and racial injustice.
They say their ingredients are gluten-free but they can’t guarantee against/they don’t test for gluten. This is from their FAQ page. Here is the link. Go down to “Is Tazo Gluten-free?”. Additionally, I could not find any gluten in their ingredients. Some of their favorite flavors include Chai, English Breakfast, and Zen.
I actually buy the Tazo Chai Concentrate to easily make iced chai lattes at home. They are SOOO good.
What about the infamous Lipton Tea, is it gluten-free? Lipton was started in 1892. It is now owned by Unilever which also owns Tazo. Lipton is the world’s leading tea brand. They are committed to reducing pesticide usage and work with farmers who do.
Their popular products include regular (black), iced, and sweet tea. Their ingredients are gluten-free but they do not guarantee against gluten contamination. Find more info about their gluten-free options by visiting their FAQ.
Yogi Tea was started 30 years ago. It strives for sustainability and social responsibility. They are based on the principles of Ayurvedic natural medicine. In my house, we love not just their teas but their boxes. We take apart the boxes and color the beautiful design on the inside.
They make a gluten-free claim on their website for all of their products. Find more info about their gluten-free options by visiting their FAQ. Their most popular teas are Egyptian, Bedtime, and Throat Comfort.
Another popular gluten-free tea brand is Stash. Stash was started in 1980 in Oregon. They are committed to sustainable practices. My favorite is their chai tea bags.
They source all of their ingredients from producers that claim that their products are gluten-free and they do not use barley malt in any product. For more visit their FAQ. Their popular flavors include Earl Gray, Double Spice Chai, and Chamomile Herbal Tea.
The next brand of gluten-free tea we’ll be reviewing it Twinngings tea. Twinings is an English tea company. They have the oldest running company logo in England, since 1706.
They are working on improving access to water and sanitation, empowering women and enhancing incomes and resilience through income diversification and sustainable farming practices. Twinings does not allow the use of gluten in their products according to the FAQs on their website.
Does Pukka have gluten-free teas? Pukka has always been a favorite of mine because of its yummy teas and its fun colorful boxes. Started in 2001, Pukka was founded by two men who had a passion for the power of herbs.
Per their FAQ, they state “All Pukka teas are free from gluten containing ingredients”. They do also point out the two of their teas, Night Time and Relax, have oat straw flowering tops in them. Though when tested, these ingredients were found to be gluten-free too.
Is Twisted Tea gluten-free? Twisted tea was started in Cincinnati in 2001. Their ethos and what their brand is about is to have responsible fun. Essentially they sell alcoholic tea.
Twisted tea says it is not gluten-free on its website because it’s made in a similar process to beer. If you look at the label it says “flavored beer” which should also give it away.
Is there gluten in Peace Tea? Peace Tea is a subsidiary of Coca-Cola. It was started by Monster Drinks in 2007. Back in my edgy teenage years, I liked to buy peace teas because I thought it made me seem cool, but I was never really a fan of flavored drinks when I was younger so I would barely finish it…
They say, “Choose fun. Choose joy. Choose kindness. Choose good vibes.” Their most popular flavors include Just Peachy, Caddy Shack, and Green Tea. The teas have natural flavorings but corporate confirmed by phone that they are gluten-free.
Does pure leave have gluten-free tea? Pure Leaf is a Canadian company that started in 2014. They pride themselves in picking the highest quality tea and being careful in the production process. They also work on sustainability.
On their FAQ they say, “While we don’t currently make gluten-free label claims, none of the ingredients in our products are derived from grains or flours that have been linked to malabsorption syndrome associated with gluten sensitivity.” This is such an odd way to phrase that their products aren’t made with gluten derivatives…
Popular flavors of theirs include Unsweetened Black Tea, Honey Green Tea, and Sweet Tea.
The company that makes Arizona Tea started in 1971. In 1992 they expanded to canned teas. They have gotten very popular. According to their FAQ, all of the Arizona Tea brand beverages are gluten-free.
In their Arnold Palmer line which is not the Arizona Tea line, they do say, “ Arnold Palmer Spiked and Arnie’s Spiked are not gluten-free. Golf, on the other hand, is 100% gluten-free.”Their popular Arizona Tea flavors include Green Tea, Raspberry Green Tea, and Lemon Green Tea.
Lastly, does Gold Peak have gluten-free tea? Gold Peak is a subsidiary of Coca-Cola. They claim to make fresh, flavorful products as their focus. They also partner with Feeding America.
Their popular flavors include Unsweet Tea, Sweet Tea, and Georgia Peach Tea. According to a phone call with the company, their products meet the Codex definition of gluten-free meaning they don’t exceed 20ppm of gluten.
Do Celestial Seasonings tea contain gluten? Celestial Seasonings is an American tea company that sells a variety of teas. Starting as Mo’s 36 Herb Tea, they grew from being sold in their hometown, Boulder, Colorado to being sold nationally.
Now owned by Kraft, who has strong policies of clear allergen disclosures (including gluten), their FAQ states “[w]e label every box of tea we make as either “gluten-free” or “contains gluten” for your convenience”.
That said, 2 of their teas contain gluten. These two flavors are Roastaroma and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride.
Dandy Blend is an instant herbal blend that may be a decent substitute for coffee. Their website claims that their products are gluten-free, as verified by testing.
However, their blend contains the following ingredients: “roasted barley extracts, roasted rye extracts, roasted dandelion root extracts, and roasted chicory root extracts”. This product includes both barley and rye and would not be considered to meet FDA gluten-free definitions. For more on this visit this website, where the Gluten-Free Watchdog does an excellent job at detailing their follow-up with this product.
So most teas are gluten-free, are there any that actually contain gluten? Whenever I post about different gluten-free products, people are always like “this is misleading, x product is always gluten-free…”
While I get the sentiment, having had celiac for over 10 years, I know never to assume something is always gluten-free. I’ve found gluten in the weirdest places, including tea… So here are teas that contain gluten for my doubters out there…
Some examples of teas that contain gluten include Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride and Matcha Tea Latte mixes.
The ingredients for Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride are: Milk Thistle, Roasted Barley, Orange Peel, Natural Sugar Cookie Flavor with other Natural Flavors and Vanilla Bean. As you can see the second ingredient is “Roasted Barley” which is not safe. Thus, this tea is not gluten-free.
Another example might be Private Selection Matcha Green Tea Latte Mix. This is an off-label matcha mix with the following ingredients: Cane Sugar, Mondairy Creamer (Coconut Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Sodium Citrate, Mono and Diglycerides, Salt, Sodium Aluminum Silicate), Malted Milk Powder (Malted Barley, Wheat Flour, Milk Powder, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten, Bicarbonate of Soda, Salt), Matcha Green Tea Powder, Skim Milk Powder, Whole Milk Powder, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Tara Gum. Because this product contains malted milk powder with many different clear sources of gluten, it’s unsafe.
Lastly, the next example of tea with gluten is Teeccino Herbal Tea – Almond Amaretto. The ingredients are: organic carobm, organic barley, organic chicory, dates, almonds, natural armaretto flavor, organic figs. Barley is the second ingredient making this herbal coffee off-limits.
That said, Teeccino does make certified gluten-free herbal coffees too, which are amazing. If miss the coffee flavor but need to avoid it, definitely try out their gluten-free line of herbal coffees.
Now that we know tea is usually gluten-free and which popular brands are safe, let’s talk about the benefits of tea.
First, drinking tea has been associated with longevity and heart health. In a study from 2022, the researchers found that people who consumed two or more cups of tea per day had a 9% to 13% lower risk of death from any cause than people who did not drink tea. Higher tea consumption was also associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and stroke.
Additionally, green, black, and oolong tea could reduce inflammation when consumed. This is largely attributed to the high antioxidant activity of the teas. One study from 2014 for example showed that drinking all three teas helped reduce inflammation. In this 2020 literature review, they further confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of green tea, suggesting they may be even helpful for supporting joint health, but more research on humans is needed.
Green tea may support your blood sugars. In a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials, they found green tea consumption lowered fasting blood glucose when compared to controls. Note, participants were consuming anywhere from the equivalent of 2-13 cups a day (if we assume the average catechin level is 100mg per cup of green tea, which is the high end of catechin levels of tea according to this source).
Green tea may support memory. In a 2020 randomized, placebo-controlled study, they found that daily consumption of the catechins found in green tea may benefit working memory. This study did provide catechins equivalent to the consumption of 3-6 cups of green tea (as catechin levels of 1 cup of green tea vary between 50mg-100mg according to this source).
And there are many other potential benefits to drinking tea. Benefits that support overall health and celiac health.
Speaking of gluten-free green tea supporting celiac health, how could it do this? While tea from camellia sinensis has benefits for people with celiac, herbal teas also offer a lot of medicinal value.
A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I actually have a certificate in complementary care and took homeopathic and herbology classes in college. Using what I learned in those classes, below are some benefits specific teas might have on celiac.
Ginger tea, for example, may help with bloating, gas, and constipation. This is because ginger is a carminative herb, which is a herb that helps relieve gas. It might also help alleviate joint pain due to its high anti-inflammatory properties, but this likely is in much higher doses than what you’d find in one tea bag.
Teas with fennel seeds may help with digestion. The oils contained in the seed stimulate the mucus membranes in the digestive tract, encouraging motility and peristalsis. It also has carminative effects to help with gas and bloating.
Teas with turmeric may support gut diversity and have anti-inflammatory effects. You can get turmeric in a tea such as the Turmeric Tea by Yogi Teas. The effects of turmeric are largely attributed to the curcumin found in it. Read more about it here.
Additionally, the blood sugar-lowering effects of green tea, listed above, can be helpful for those with celiac. This is because continued exposure to gluten with celiac is dangerous to organs other than the small intestine. Other organs that may be damaged or face inflammation include the pancreas which plays an important role in blood sugar regulation. If you enjoy green tea, then it may be helpful to drink regularly to support your pancreas in general, and also if you’re still in the healing phase of celiac.
There are many other teas that may be beneficial to those with celiac. However, many herbs are helpful in concentrations higher than what you might find in herbal teas. Keep this in mind, and if you choose to use herbal supplements rather than teas, be sure you know how to choose safe gluten-free supplements (as the supplement industry can be very dangerous for someone with celiac).
If you need help with this, I help you confidently avoid gluten when making or selecting products in the USA in my Celiac Crash Course. It’s a self-paced course that covers ALL of the basics of avoiding gluten in your life so you can heal your gut as fast as possible. Check it out here.
Gluten-free teas are available and can be great for soothing digestion, helping you connect with friends and family, or even just to help you relax after a long day. Whether you’re buying bottles of pre-made tea, or using tea bags, there are gluten-free options available.
And if you want to be able to quickly look at food labels and know when something is gluten-free in the USA, I teach you how to do that in just FOUR simple steps in my TOTALLY FREE Gluten-Free Label-Reading Class linked here!