Plain tea leaves are gluten-free (assuming they haven't been subjected to gluten cross-contamination in harvesting and processing). Therefore, plain unsweetened ice tea you make fresh from tea bags should be safe.
It gets more complicated when you consider bottled iced tea brands and iced tea mixes on the market, though, since they almost always contain added ingredients such as sugar and other flavors. So which ones are considered gluten-free?
A couple of cautions apply, though. First, this list only applies to beverages available in the U.S. — ingredients and gluten-free status can vary in other countries. In addition, ingredients can (and do) change at any time. Although beverage companies are tending to remove gluten from products these days (as opposed to adding it), you should check labels every time you buy.
Finally, many of these products are manufactured in facilities or even on equipment that also processes gluten ingredients. Therefore, if you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten, you may react to some of these even though they meet the current "gluten-free" standard. Always drink with caution and listen to your body — it may be trying to tell you something.
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Okay, enough cautionary statements. Here's the list of gluten-free options in bottled iced teas and iced tea mixes:
- AriZona iced teas and tea mixes. AriZona brand offers teas and juice blends in colorfully decorated bottles and cans, plus iced tea mixes. According to the company's Frequently Asked Questions, "all of our tea and juice beverages are gluten-free."
- Gold Peak teas. Gold Peak, owned by the Coca-Cola Co., makes five different varieties of iced tea: Sweetened Iced Tea, Diet Iced Tea, Sweetened Green Iced Tea, Lemon Iced Tea and Unsweetened Iced Tea. The only one of these that appears on Coca-Cola's U.S. gluten-free list is Lemon Iced Tea.
- Honest Tea. This independent brand has made a name for itself by specializing in lower-calorie beverages sweetened with less sugar than typical bottled iced tea. All of its varieties are considered gluten-free, according to the company.
- Lipton bottled teas and iced tea mixes. Lipton makes a variety of different bottled iced teas and ice tea powdered mixes in different flavors. The company does not publish a gluten-free list and does not test for gluten, but will specify on the label when gluten-containing ingredients have been used in a product. (For more on how to read food labels, see: How To Identify Gluten on Food Labels.)/li>
- Nestea. Nestea, owned by Nestlé, markets bottled iced tea beverages and powdered iced tea mix. The company states that its instant iced tea mix is considered gluten-free. Its bottled iced tea beverages are manufactured by Coca-Cola Co., and five flavors — Nestea Sweetened Lemon Tea, Diet Nestea Lemon, Nestea Red Tea, Nestea Citrus Green Tea and Diet Nestea Citrus Green Tea — appear on Coca-Cola's gluten-free list.
- Republic of Tea. If you prefer unsweetened tea in a bottle, you may want to consider one of Republic of Tea's eight gourmet flavors. All are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which requires products to test below 10 parts per million of gluten.
- Snapple. This popular iced tea brand states here that none of its products contain gluten.
- SoBe iced teas. SoBe makes a line of exotic tea and fruit blends, including two that would qualify as bottled iced teas: SoBe Energize Green Tea and SoBe Lean Honey Green Tea. SoBe products are manufactured by Pepsi Co., which only discloses wheat, not all potential gluten sources. (For more information, see Does 'Wheat-Free' Equal 'Gluten-Free'?) To view the ingredients, visit Pepsi Co. Beverage Facts website.
- Sweet Leaf Tea. Sweet Leaf, also owned by Nestlé, states on its website that all of its flavors are considered gluten-free.
- Tazo bottled teas. The bottled Tazo teas you find in the store and in Starbucks actually are manufactured by Pepsi Co. under a licensing agreement Starbucks (the owner of Tazo) signed with Pepsi Co. and Unilever. At the moment, there are three Tazo iced tea flavors on the market: Giant Peach, Organic Iced Black and Organic Iced Green teas. None list any suspicious-looking ingredients, but again, Pepsi Co. only discloses wheat, not all potential gluten sources.