Cafes, Coeliac Disease, Gluten Free London, Rants
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Starbucks: ‘What’s gluten?’

Today I had one of those rage-inducing encounters that I’m sure most coeliacs and gluten-free dieters experience once in a while.

This exchange took place in a Starbucks in London.

Me: Hi, do you know if any of the hot chocolates are gluten-free?

Starbucks Lady: Gluten…free?

Me: Erm, Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats and rye; it might be present in some of the powders and syrups- perhaps you have an allergy checklist I could take a look at?

Starbucks Lady: Ahhh I don’t think they are gluten-free. They all have milk in them.

Me: I asked about gluten, not milk?

Starbucks Lady: Maybe you have the coffee with soy milk.

Me: I don’t need soy milk, I just need to know about gluten.

Starbucks Lady: The gluten is in the milk.

Me: [losing patience] Gluten and dairy are different things – could I just take a look at the ingredients?

Starbucks Lady: Maybe you can have the americano.

Me: I just want to know about the hot chocolates.

Starbucks Lady: But they all have milk??


*deep breath*

Me: Look, I think we have a misunderstanding, could I please just have a look at the allergen list for the hot drinks.

She handed me the list for the foods. Said that one for the drinks did not exist.

I left.








I do appreciate that not everyone has a detailed knowledge of gluten-free matters. Not everyone needs to. But I really think that people who work with food should be taught about food allergies and intolerances, and potentially harmful ingredients. I was surprised that in a massive chain like Starbucks – a company which actually has developed and sells specialist gluten-free items – that the member of staff had not been trained even to know what gluten was.

I never did find out whether the hot chocolates are GF…answers on a postcard?


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  2. i know this is some time after your post…

    I have asked in one of the Starbucks in Manchester Arndale, and had a perfect answer…

    the regular hot chocolate is fine, but the luxury is possibly not,

    I don’t know about Starbucks food though…

    Costa is fine for hot chocolate, along with the pre-packed brownies or bakewells (well I’d call them bakewell bites)

    • Thanks for your reply Rick, I actually looked this up myself as I have had little success asking the servers (as you can see in my tale above!) and this is what I found for Costa: It says that some of the hot chocs may contain gluten, some not…I wish they could just note this instore!

    • My darling David emailed Starbucks to complain, and they are sending us some vouchers. Apparently. They neglected to comment on or send the asked-for gluten-free list though, which would have been more useful!

  3. Sarah says

    In a few cafés when I’ve asked if they have gluten free bread I’ve been looked at in horror. The response being “No, we
    don’t have free bread”

    I despair.

    • Haha! Brilliant. I haven’t heard that one before. It can be so frustrating when people just don’t get it – like banging your head against a wall made of gluten.

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