By Beth Hillson
This time of year we’re all hankering for those warm beverages to soothe our tummies and ward off the winter chill. Coffee, tea, coffee drinks, and chai are all tempting choices. But some of the most popular flavored drinks can be anything but comfort to gluten-free people. So look before you drink.
Of course, plain tea – - green, or black – - and unadulterated coffee are usually fine. (That includes decaffeinated varieties.) The rumor mill abounds with stories about coffee being harmful to people with celiac disease. Not true. That rumor holds about as much water as your tea bag.
But, speaking of tea, did you know that some herbal teas add barley malt for sweetener, or use roasted barley in the ingredients? And what about tea bags? Well, occasionally they are sealed with wheat paste which gets dunked into your hot water, too.
And flavored coffee drinks, while yummy and filling (think pumpkin lattes) have flavorings added and many are not gluten free. Take for instance, Starbucks, where flavored drinks are king. They say that nothing made in the stores is gluten free. This statement might be to cover liability issues since we know that straight coffee, lattes and cappuccino are probably safe and many plain teas at Starbucks are safe. (Starbucks uses Tazo brand teas and all but four are gluten free.)
But start adding in flavorings – - syrups, chips, and such – - and who knows what might be climbing into that cup of comfort. Some flavored chips contain gluten and it seems like the light frappuccino mix at Starbucks can contain gluten. Pumpkin Spice Latte and Caramel Hot Chocolate are questionable because the ingredients can vary. If you prefer soy milk in your lattes, you should know that some brands contain barley malt. The soy milk used at Starbucks stores is safe, however.
Dunkin Donuts ® says its unflavored coffees are safe. And Dunkin now has gluten free donuts and muffins in many locations. But it’s unclear if their flavored coffee is safe.
So have that warm drink, but do a little detective work first or stick to plain coffee or tea that you know is safe.
By the way, several companies report that their teas are gluten free. These include Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings, Mighty Leaf, Numi, Tazo, Republic of Tea, Lipton, Stash, Tetley, and Red Rose. Several brands have a handful of flavors that do contain barley, but most are safe. The company web sites list them.
What about you? What is your winter drink of choice?