Gluten and Tea
I wish to pass on some information I recently learned about the processing of a particular type of tea, Fuzhuan. Apparently this is one of the few Chinese teas that often contains Wheat or Barley. During the processing of the tea, in order to spread the Golden Flowers the tea is known for they use either rice flour, barley flour or wheat flour. And no vendors from China who know about this process currently put a warning label on this tea, although that may change for one of our vendors on here. This information was found in the book The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley so the source of my information is good.
Do you know if this process is used in any other tea? I have these green (or maybe oolong) jasmine “olives” that my tea person over at Premium Steap gave me for a sample as something different and fun for me. Maybe 2cm by 1cm. I thought that it would be cute to steep in a glass cup with my girlfriend but it’ll land her in the hospital if there’s gluten in there. Do you have any clue on these? I wish I had more info on them, but I don’t.
I don’t know for sure about any other teas. I only found out about this by chance. It was in a book by Joseph Wesley. In this case they need flour of some sort to help them spread the golden flowers. The Chinese don’t have a good record with gluten in general although this is the only tea I know it’s added to. Celiac’s disease and gluten sensitivity are not an issue in China. I would ask someone who knows about how that particular tea is processed. My guess is it doesn’t contain gluten but that could be wrong.
I should note that the only vendor I know who confirms their teas are gluten free is Simpson and Vail, www.svtea.com. Excellent tea too.
At this time, all of our teas are gluten free. I will be blending a bacon tea in the very near future and plan to do this so that there is no cross contamination – as I’m not sure if the vegan bacon bits are gluten free or not. I have a message in to the manufacturer to find out but at this time I have not heard back from them.
Also in the near future, I will be blending one tea with some roasted barley. Again, I will take precautions to avoid cross contamination to keep my facility gluten free.
I have recommended Yunnan Sourcing to many people many times. Scott has just reaffirmed all those times I have recommended him. After he was unable to determine that his Fuzhuan was made with rice flour, he decided to put a warning label on his Fuzhuan pages. He did this without being asked.
That’s really good to know. We don’t sell any blends, but we’re going to investigate whether any of our teas contain gluten and add info on our product pages.
Probably none of your straight teas contain gluten unless you sell fuzhuan. But it will be good to see you add the information.
That’s what I also thought, however we’ve to extremely careful with such information. Just had a call with a sales representative of the Xiaguan factory, and they state their pu erh doesn’t contain gluten. I’m getting a written statement by email from them soon :)
Thats interesting. I have never tried this tea, but my mum is coeliac very severely since birth, she was part of the campaign to get a warning on things in supermarkets.
She has to even check things like sliced meat because they sometimes dust things to stop them sticking.
And another time at either kew gardens or crystal palace with her group a chef made a mistake and apparently it was so horrific the staff thought it was a chemical attack and called the police
Unfortunately they have no knowledge or concept of such things in China. Luckily I have not come across other teas where they add wheat flour to them but they could be out there. The biggest chance of getting it added is in blends of tea with other things I would think.
That’s good to know. I wonder if Japanese teas the share the same facilities with genmaicha production may contain gluten as well. I haven’t heard of any issues from most Japanese tea lovers so far…
I thought genmaicha to be normally gluten free? Do they use wheat in the production of it? The gluten in rice is not what they are talking about when they say gluten. They mean only wheat, barley, or rye.
I see… I don’t think they typically use wheat, barley, or rye in any genmaicha but one Japanese tea with barley I can think of would be mugicha. It’s not actually tea though. Just roasted barley.
Thank you for sharing this, Allan. I also have to be very careful to avoid gluten. It shows up in unexpected places, like flavored coffees. The gluten lets the flavoring adhere to the beans. I always thought if I just stuck to tea leaves and whole food/flowers in a blend, I would be safe. Glad to know to be wary.
I only found out about gluten in Fuzhuan because I happened to buy a book on tea at a tea festival. I had not idea Fuzhuan had gluten or might have gluten. I have drank the stuff and don’t remember getting sick but then again if you have a gluten problem it may not always make you sick. I also could have bought a Fuzhuan processed with rice flour and lucked out. I am considering buying a gluten testing kit to test my Fuzhuan brick that I have. Scott at Yunnan Sourcing is considering the idea for his Fuzhuan offerings too.
With gluten, (depending on how much your body attacks the protein) often for people it can be the second time they ingest it if in smaller quantities – your stomach gets irritated the first time, then the second time if your stomach is still sore it makes you really unwell.
And yes, Zennenn, this is what my mum always tells me, it gets used so much for different purposes in the food industry.
Did you also know you can develop it like diabetes? My ex started getting bad stomach pains, and because I am very aware of gluten in foods due to 20 years of living with my mum I could see it was that affecting her. Its way overused and people dont realise how much they consume
Interesting stuff about Fuzhuan. Maybe there isn’t enough gluten in there to be risky – take blue cheese, for instance.
But when you don’t know, honestly, you better avoid it altogether. Unless you’re part of the 90-95% of people doing a gluten-free for dubious reasons (i.e. self-diagnosed).
Bef – To clarify, there’s no gluten in blue cheese, with the possible exception of one or two Roquefort producers who make the cheese the super old school way, and even then, there would be a ridiculously minut amount. Cool process, though… They take a loaf of bread, put it in the Roquefort caves, let it mold until it is a loaf of mold. At this point it can go in a salt shaker. Just a couple dashes of the mold powder need to be added to the milk and it will grow as the cheese ages.
Almost 100% of blue cheese makers including most Roquefort producers, use refined mold from a lab. If a producer does it the old school way, rest assured that they’ll be bragging about ;-) So no worries… Eat blue cheese.
That is interesting because I had heard that there was often gluten in blue cheese depending on how it was produced. My understanding was blue cheese not marked gluten free probably contained gluten in some amount.
If it’s made in a large factory like sargento or kraft, I’d think it would have a higher risk of cross contamination (I have absolutely no clue if that is an issue with either, I’ve never dealt with their cheeses.) but that’s the case with any food made in a factory that produces many products. I’ve had many customers with major gluten problems that were fine with blues. I would steer them clear of Carles Roquefort, which is amazing but uses (or at least did at the time) the old fashioned method that I mentioned above. I think that it’s a matter of there being a crumb of truth that gets blown out of proportion, and the original info is obfuscated.
I think I’ll follow this with a legal disclaimer: This is not medical advice, always follow the advice of your doctor! ;)
@Tea and Cheese Lover: actually this is why I was referring to blue cheese (i.e. lots of misconceptions about gluten in it). I was thinking it might be the same with that particular tea – who knows…
I remember back in the old days celiacs were not allowed things such as whisky (distilled spirits from grains that contain gluten), or starch (could be wheat starch). In Europe, most products containing starch are from wheat, and from what I understand, it’s not an issue these days Same with whisky and the such, as long as it’s distilled, you’re good to go.
When you mentioned it could show up in flavored coffee it prompted me to check with the manufacturer of some flavored coffee I bought at the Coffee and Tea Festival NYC. Luckily he responded back that all his coffees are gluten free.
Hi Allan, thanks for making the topic! I never thought about this before!
When I found out about Fuzhuan I felt I had to post it for if I have a gluten issue and try Fuzhuan so will someone else. So far it is the only tea that I know of where the Chinese add gluten to. Although some blends will have gluten added to them. Many tea companies here in the US try to avoid gluten. I know for instance that David’s Tea considers all their teas to be gluten free. I don’t personally agree with them as one or two of their teas contain deglutenized wheat. I don’t personally trust this.
Yeah, I had no idea they had that view about their tea. I just checked their website and it states “Yes indeed, but please be aware that our teas do not come from certified gluten-free facilities.” I can see your concern about the deglutenized wheat as well. I imagine there can still be traces of it, which could be an issue for someone who is sensitive.
I didn’t realize how many things DavidsTea adds as part of their blends until I really started looking at their ingredients because I recently found out I have a cinnamon sensitivity.
I only found out about the deglutenized wheat because they do label their teas well. I bought that tea and brought it home but luckily read the ingredient list before brewing it. I returned that one to them.
I do appreciate that they label their teas. That was very useful for me when I was trying to pin down what I was sensitive to.
Oh, I already suspecting the sensitive prior to my encounter with the cinnamon in the tea. It was just the clincher (This isn’t me completely self diagnosing, I went to the doctor and had allergy tests preformed).
You can actually have a sensitivity to something your not allergic to. It is very common.
I get where you’re coming from. I just avoid cinnamon because it gives me a very bad migraine.
Interesting, I have a friend who has celiac and wants to get into tea, thank you for this information! It would never cross my mind.
Great information, AllanK. A friend who is celiac got very ill from eating french fries at a bar. Turns out fries are often dusted with flour before they are frozen to prevent them from sticking together.
If there’s any other fried meals on the menu, you really should avoid too (at least, “real” diagnosed celiacs should), since restaurants usually use the same oil for all meals.
That is why I don’t get the french fries at MacDonalds. They are fine as far as gluten goes but the filet of fish may be fried in the same oil. I am not on the diet because it is the latest fad diet.