What about coffee, black tea …?


What about coffee, black tea …?

Reasons besides histamine intolerance why one might react to coffee, black tea, etc.









People with histamine intolerance often react to coffee and black tea. Sometimes they manage to tolerate green tea and even cacao.

But is there a general rule that goes for the whole coffee, tea, chocolate issue? Unfortunately, no. But there are some rules of the thumb one might want to consider and some tendencies one can work with.

Besides histamine intolerance one might want to consider if an additional coffee intolerance might be the problem if you cannot tolerate coffee at all.

Women suffering from PMS and people with blood type 0 often have problems with coffee.

Reasons why one might react to coffee, black tea, etc. when having histamine intolerance

Back on topic, caffeine generally blocks diaminoxidase (DAO). Many people therefore switch to grain coffee or carob coffee. This way one can still enjoy coffee, but without the typical effect that comes with caffeine.

Other people affected by histamine intolerance often try to fix the caffeine problem simply by drinking decaff. Indeed, this solves the caffeine problem, but I would not recommend it for other (health) reasons. First of all, the typical caffeine effect (wake up!) is absent here, too. Secondly, some chemicals involved in making decaff are considered carcinogens. Numerous procedures can be used to extract the coffeine from the beans. Usually the beans are therefore soaked in water, and then later treated with some chemical.

This chemical needs to be able to extract the caffeine, and only that, so the aroma remains. The first procedure known is the Roselius’ method, using the highly toxic substance benzene. Therefore, to my knowledge, it is not used anymore today. Another method includes the treatment of the beans with dichlormethane, a solvent that is suspected to be carcinogenic. Less harmful is the treatment with liquid nitrogen, which unfortunately is quite expensive.

Another alternative is called the Swiss Water Process. The problem with this method is that in the process of applying water and rinsing it through a carbon filter not only the caffeine is dissolved out the beans, but also some aromatic substances wash away. From a producer’s point of view, another drawback is that the extracted caffeine later on cannot be dried and sold otherwise, e. g. for energy drinks. So producers might turn to extracting caffeine by applying carbon dioxide.

A possible additional method is the treatment of the beans with triglycerides. The oil extracts the caffeine, yet leaves the aroma intact.

Especially organic coffee producers turn to the method applying dichlormethane or another method operating with ethyl acetate, a substance that can also be found in many fruits. The problem is we do not always know how the ethyl acetate was produced. Some coffee brands actually ferment sugar cane to get molasses with alcohol, and then add acetic acid. But others might take the shortcut through the labratory.

My problem with decaff is exactly that: How am I supposed to know which method was actually used to get the caffeine out? Due to this transparency issue I decided to leave the hands off decaff. You might handle this differently, though.

an espresso machine

If you still don’t want to deny yourself a coffee once in a while, I recommend you get yourself an espresso maker/machine. Machines for starters nowadays don’t have to be expensive and they will do a great job. I got myself an espresso machine some years ago for about 100 Euros. But please don’t spend your money on a machine using capsules, neither on a fully automated coffee machine. Capsules often contain chemicals. A fully automated coffee machine is expensive to maintain and almost impossible to really clean. Instead go for a real espresso machine – one where you have to plug the coffee in with a lever (like you can see in the picture).

Different from filter coffee, where the coffee powder soaks in water before it finally comes down into your pot as coffee, espresso is made with pressure (like the name suggests). The coffee powder does not soak in water, the water is pushed through the coffee powder instead. Due to this process espresso contains less bitters and less acid than filter coffee. The gut therefore does not acidify as easily. Furthermore, espresso contains less (!) caffeine than filter coffee. And it is caffeine which causes the histamine related reactions. You may tolerate coffee even better with milk (also plant based milk works). Don’t forget the mandatory glass of water that traditionally comes with any coffee you order in Italy. The coffee then is easier to digest and you won’t dehydrate as quickly. Just don’t drink too much coffee, because also espresso contains caffeine (just less) that blocks DAO.

Espresso consumed in a restaurant or cafe can sometimes lead to reactions, too. The level of hygiene is not the same everywhere. Espresso machines often don’t get cleaned as thoroughly or regularly as it would be necessary. The results are furred up conduits and mould. Therefore choose your barista wisely.

Black tea also contains caffeine, so black tea also blocks the DAO. The rule of the thumb here is, the longer the tea steepens the more bitter it will become and the more caffeine it will contain. Therefore don’t leave the tea bag or tee egg in too long. Ice tea that you can buy in bottles is usually made from black tea, too. So try to make your own ice tea, e.g. with rooibos tea.

Generally green tea is better tolerated than black tea, although it still contains caffeine. Yet, it is not fermented. Rooibos tea and black tea are both fermented. Rooibos tea just does not have caffeine. Most herbal teas can be consumed without worries (if you have any allergies you still want to bear in mind possible cross reactions, though).

Cocoa often leads to reactions, the same goes for chocolate. (Pure) cocoa also contains other biogenic amines. Cocoa is listed among the histamine and migraine triggers. In moderation some people can cope with it. I have a separate post regarding chocolate.

I hope I could shine a light on the whole coffee, black tea… issue. If you have questions or feedback feel free to email me at histaminarm[at]vollbio.de.

If you want to discuss the whole issue with other affected people, you can find links leading you to histamine groups on my links site.

(c) The Histamine Pirate

6 thoughts on “What about coffee, black tea …?

  1. I am not sure if you are aware that most decaffeinated coffee is ” freed” of it’s caffeine content with water and steam. You need to update yourself a bit before scaring people about the ” carcinogenic ” effects of something.


    • my understanding was that using the water process to decaffeinate coffee was rare and that coffee decaffeinated with this process is always labelled as such, harder to find, and more expensive


  2. Thank you for this article. I’ve been suffering from hives for almost a month now . They go away with medications and then come right back. I’m sick of the steroids and the antihistamines. I do drink two big cups of coffee each day. Going to try drinking herbal coffee for a while to see if that helps me. Thank you again!


  3. Pingback: Top 7 Herbs for Immune Support - Dr Becky Campbell

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