Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tea Bags - urban legend?

Now if you're gluten free like I am, you've probably come across safe tea as well as the evil unsafe tea that contained barley or oat products or, every once in a while, wheat products as well. If you've been gluten free for some time, you've probably also heard about tea bags as a potential gluten contamination issue.

Some tea bags are sealed with gluten (wheat paste) - at least, that's what I've read, on multiple sites. But I started getting suspicious about this when I noticed that of all the tea companies I've checked with, none of them used gluten. They used heat crimping to seal their bags. All of them.

And I called a lot of tea companies, let me tell you. I was the tea company calling dervish of doom. Telemarketers would have wept at not having me on their team.

So I queried the folks at and no one else had actually come across a tea bag that had been sealed with gluten, either. In fact, I got the following reply from one David, a fellow forum member:
[Gluten sealed tea bags are a] Myth!

The tea bag fabric is crimped under extreme pressure causing it to bond.

My father was a production manager in Allied Suppliers (Liptons) and installed and set-up the first tea bagging machine in Ireland 40 + yrs ago.

Very interesting answer. I must admit, though, I am more cynical these days if I don't have the information straight from the horse's mouth. So I believe the first tea bagging machines in Ireland didn't use wheat paste, but part of me wonders if some modern, super-organic, back-to-nature company might think it was more 'natural' to seal their bags with wheat paste.

Weirder things have happened.

Still, the non-existence of gluten-sealed-tea-bags jives with what I've managed to research, so I'm slowly but surely beginning to lean in the direction of 'urban legend' for a wheat paste sealed tea bag. I know I'll still be calling tea companies and asking periodically; a bit more work is very much worth avoiding the reaction I'll get if I get gluten. But for those of you who have been worrying about this, maybe this information may be of some comfort.

However, if anyone knows of ANY tea bags that actually seal with gluten? Please, let me know! I'd like to put this legend to bed.

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