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Is Tea Gluten Free? Read This To Find Out Whether Tea Is Gluten Free In [AU] 2023

Jennifer Olejarz

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

is tea gluten free
Pure, traditional tea is naturally gluten-free. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Gluten-free products are all the rage — but is tea gluten-free? Without a label on the tea package, you might be left wondering if there are hidden traces of gluten. This could be problematic for someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

You would think that tea, a simple infusion of dried leaves in water, is gluten-free. But nowadays, tea is sold in many different flavors that aren’t always natural or gluten-free.

Read on to learn all about the different types of teas, which teas are naturally gluten-free, which aren’t, and healthy gluten-free alternatives. Plus, find out the best teas for weight loss.

Does Tea Have Gluten?

No — pure, traditional tea is naturally gluten-free. However, flavored tea might have additives that contain gluten. It’s always best to check the ingredients label and opt for certified gluten-free products.

Are Tea And Its Varying Types Gluten-Free? 

Traditional plain tea is considered gluten-free. It comes from the Camelia sinensis plant,[1] which produces black, green, oolong, and white tea. 

However, not all teas are made from the Camelia sinensis plant. Herbal tea can be made from a wide range of ingredients. Plus, there are added ingredients[2] in some flavored teas that might have gluten. 

There’s also gluten-cross contamination to worry about — even in products labeled gluten-free.[3] One study[2] found that several brands of green and white teas sold in the United States contained undeclared gluten. This can happen when a company’s tea bags are processed in the same facility as wheat products[3] or other gluten-containing grains. 

Historically, wheat flour was sometimes used as a binder[2] to facilitate the fermentation process during manufacturing. Nowadays, mostly rice, tapioca, and other nongluten sources are used for binding. 

If you’re on a gluten-free diet plan, you’ll need to find out which traditional and herbal teas might have traces of gluten. 

Typical Gluten-Containing Ingredients In Teas

While tea in its pure form has no gluten, some blends may add gluten-containing ingredients, such as:

  • Barley malt or malt extract: These are sweeteners derived from barley,[4] a grain containing gluten. It’s more common in instant teas to give it that malty flavor. 
  • Roasted barley: One tea flavor to avoid is barley tea, which contains gluten. Barley tea is made from roasted barley grains and is popular in Asian countries.
  • Natural flavors: Sometimes derived from barley or wheat-based sources. Avoid any gluten-grain-based flavors, such as malt.
  • Fillers or binders: Some tea blends, mostly powdered ones, might use additives that contain the gluten grains wheat, barley, or rye. Matcha tea powders might sometimes be bulked out with wheat flour.

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and the product is flavored or otherwise processed, look for a certified gluten-free label. Without that, it’s almost impossible to tell if it’s gluten-free from vague ingredients like natural flavors

Safe Gluten-Free Tea Options

Here are some safe tea options that are naturally gluten-free:

  • Black tea: Pure black teas such as Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, or English breakfast tea. 
  • Green tea: Sencha, Dragonwell, gunpowder, or matcha green tea. 
  • White tea: Varieties like Silver Needle and White Peony.
  • Oolong tea: Both light and dark oolong teas are gluten-free, including Tie Guan Yin or Da Hong Pao. 
  • Pu-erh tea: A fermented tea known for its earthy, mature flavors. Examples include Sheng, or raw, and Shou, or ripe. 
  • Yellow tea: A less common tea, similar to green, but with a slower drying phase, giving it a mellow flavor. Examples include Junshan Yinzhen or Huo Shan Huang Ya.  

To be sure your tea bags or loose tea are gluten-free, look for gluten-free labeled teas — especially if you’re buying flavored tea. However, many major tea companies won’t bother paying for gluten-free certification because tea is naturally gluten-free.

Health Benefits Of Gluten-Free Tea

Studies suggest that at least two cups of tea[5] daily are associated with health benefits. Tea is well known for its antioxidant[6] and health-promoting effects.[5] Many of the benefits are linked to its bioactive compounds, L-theanine, caffeine, and catechins. 

Each tea offers unique benefits, such as:

  • Black tea: Might help improve cholesterol levels[7] and fat digestion.[8] Studies show that tea drinkers have a lower risk of developing dementia[9] and tend to live longer.[5] This might be due to its antioxidant properties.
  • Green tea: Known for its ability to boost metabolism and speed up fat burning,[10] drinking green tea is associated with lower body weight.[11] It’s also great for brain health and may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. It’s rich in catechins,[12] a flavonoid antioxidant that has anti-cancer properties and can improve heart health. 
  • White tea: This variety is unfermented and also has high levels of catechins. White tea has anti-aging and anti-cancer[13] properties, along with cardioprotective factors. 
  • Oolong tea: May help in fat metabolism and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.[14] It may also decrease blood fat levels and suppress fat tissue, aiding weight loss.
  • Pu-erh tea: Might aid fat metabolism[15] and help reduce the risk of obesity and cancer. 
  • Yellow tea: Similar benefits to green tea, thanks to its high levels of catechins. Its high levels of antioxidants[16] work to reduce inflammation and boost overall health. 

While tea is healthy, remember that more than four cups a day might have unpleasant side effects.[17] Unless decaffeinated, all teas from the Camellia sinensis plant contain some level of caffeine. Too much caffeine can lead to a fast heartbeat, headaches, restlessness, and insomnia. However, L-theanine[18] may combat some of the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Healthier Alternatives To Tea

If you’re wary of what might be in your tea, here are some other gluten-free hot beverage options:

  • Herbal infusions: Chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos are all naturally caffeine-free gluten-free tea varieties. They can help with anxiety[19] and digestion and promote better sleep. 
  • Hot lemon water: Cut a few fresh lemon slices and add boiling water instead of using a tea bag. The extra vitamin C[20] can help support immune function and aid nutrient absorption. 
  • Fresh lemon ginger tea: Finely chop ginger or green ginger slices and boil with water for several minutes. Add a little honey if it’s too strong. This antioxidant drink[21] might help relieve muscle pain, soreness, and nausea and even help lower blood sugar levels. 
  • Bone broth: Sold in most health food stores, this trendy new drink is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s made by simmering animals’ bones[22] and connective tissue, sometimes with vegetables, herbs, and spices added. Cooking it for long periods helps extract the nutrients from the bones, like collagen, amino acids, and minerals. It can help the digestive system and boost joint and skin health. 
  • Hot chocolate: Heat cacao powder, nut milk, and a pinch of cinnamon and vanilla over medium heat. The cacao might give you a little mood boost, too. 
  • Matcha latte: Whisk a teaspoon of antioxidant-rich matcha powder with a blend of hot water and milk, mixing it until it’s frothy. 
  • Coffee: As long as it’s unflavored, black coffee is naturally gluten-free. Avoid instant coffees;[23] they can contain gluten-based fillers. 
  • Protein powder smoothie: Many protein powders are now labeled gluten-free. Blended with frozen fruit and nut milk, they make a smoothie bursting with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and protein to keep you full for hours.

Finally, if you need a snack but only have time for tea, you can also grab a meal replacement bar. Of course, it’s always better to eat whole foods that are naturally nutrient-dense rather than buying bars or fat burners to reach a healthy weight. You can even consider a meal delivery service to ensure you always have healthy food at home. 

Conclusion

So, does tea have gluten? No. Traditional, pure tea made from the tea plant is considered gluten-free. 

It’s only when flavorings, binders, or fillers are added that you have to worry about gluten. In that case, always look for a gluten-free certification on the product. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell if there are traces of gluten in some additives. 

To be safe, make tea at home and add your own gluten-free sweeteners and milk. You can also choose something else entirely, like fruity herbal infusions, hot chocolate, bone broth, or coffee. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can gluten-free people drink tea?

Yes, most traditional, pure, unflavored teas are naturally gluten-free. This includes black, white, green, and oolong teas.

Is sweet tea gluten-free?

Sweet tea is black tea sweetened with sugar, so it’s naturally gluten-free. However, check the ingredients if you’re not making it yourself. Some additives or flavorings could have gluten-based ingredients.

Is matcha gluten-free?

Yes, matcha is powdered green tea and is naturally gluten-free. However, wheat-based fillers might be added to the powder. Always check the package, especially if you’re buying it flavored.

Is green tea gluten-free?

Yes, pure green tea is gluten-free. But if it’s flavored, you’ll have to check the ingredients for gluten.

Is bubble tea gluten-free?

Yes, bubble tea is a drink made up of tea, milk, sugar, and tapioca pearls. Tapioca pearls are made from the cassava plant, which doesn’t contain gluten. The drink is naturally gluten-free, but check the ingredients if you get it flavored.


+ 23 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Jennifer Olejarz

Medically reviewed by:

Ellie Busby

Jennifer Olejarz is a Certified Nutritionist and Health Counselor specializing in binge and emotional eating, stress management, and mental health. She has almost a decade's worth of experience in the health and wellness field writing health articles, guides, and books, along with creating health and nutrition courses. She works one-to-one with private clients to build healthier lifestyle habits and end the lifelong battle of food guilt and diet frustrations. She has degrees in both Psychology and Nutrition from Western University, Canada.

Medically reviewed by:

Ellie Busby

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