Wheat Straws - Everything you need to know (2024)

Wheat straw in a strawberry margarita

Are wheat straws a smart choice?

Or a short-term fad?

Wheat straws in a glass

First, what exactly is a wheat straw?

A wheat straw is the stem of a wheat plant. Farmers collect the head of the plant for food, and the stem is leftover. The stems are collected from the field, cut to drinking straw size, and then sterilized. There is no manufacturing or factory required.
Wheat plant diagram

How wheat straws are "made" (3 simple steps)

1.  Leftover wheat stems are collected from a farmer's field
2.  Stems are cut to drinking straw size
3.  Sterilized with boiling water and a special oven (no chemicals required)

    Wheat field

    Compare the 3 simple steps above to the process required to make paper or plastic straws.

    The problem with paper straws - making them requires trees, logging operations, paper mills, heavy machinery, and chemicals. Even “certified” and “responsibly managed” timber sources are resource-intensive operations. 

    Are wheat straws a short-term fad?

    We dug into the history of drinking straws and discovered humans have been using wheat straws for over 7,000 years
    History of drinking straws timeline
    The first evidence of wheat farming goes back as far as 9,600 BC.
    The Ancient Sumerian civilization used drinking straws to drink from large clay pots. Wheat and reed were common in the region, and the stems were discovered to be effective drinking straws.
    Depiction of drinking straws in ancient Sumeria
    The oldest depiction of drinking straws from Ancient Mesopotamia (picture from ancient-origins.net)
    The ancient Egyptians also sipped from various kinds of straws, including wheat, clay, reed, and straws made of gold.

    Ancient Egyptian artwork showing man drinking from straw

    In the 5th century, monks living in monasteries in Europe used to brew wheat beer. Before modern filtration, beer had undesirable floating solids. Wheat straws were used to avoid the floaters and sip the good stuff below.
    Wheat straws continued to be used all the way up to our great great grandparents' generation. In total, wheat straws have been used as an effective and sustainable drinking straw for around 7,000 years.
    Painting by Winslow Homer man cutting wheat field

     The Veteran in a New Field (1865) -Winslow Homer

    • ~5,000 BC to the late 1800's - Wheat straws

    • 1888 - Paper straws invented 

    • 1960's - Plastic straws took over

    Margarita with plastic straw by the swimming pool
      Above: plastic straw  Below: wheat straw
    Margarita with wheat straw next to swimming pool

    Wheat straws - what kind of drinks? 

    In our tests, wheat straws performed well in the following cold and hot drinks:
    Cold: water, cocktails, soda, juice, lemonade, iced tea, iced coffee
    Hot: coffee, tea, hot-chocolate
    cup of coffee with plastic stir stick and wheat straw on table
    A short (5 inch) wheat straw can also be used as a stir-stick in hot drinks


    We did a soggy test by leaving them in both hot and cold drinks for 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days.
    The results: wheat straws never went soggy.
    Their performance actually improves after a few sips. Once a wheat straw gets wet, it becomes bendable like a plastic straw.
    Wheat straw after 8 hours in liquid
    Above: wheat straw after 8 hours in water
    Below: rice straw after 2 hours in water
    Soggy rice straw after 2 hours in liquid

    No Unwanted Straw Taste

    Hospitality staff usually love wine tastings. We did a straw tasting (nobody loved it).
    We were surprised that several types of drinking straws had a noticeably bad taste. No bartender wants their carefully crafted drinks to have an extra straw taste. 
    Wheat straws passed the taste test (no straw taste).

    Are wheat straws reusable?

    If you’re at home, absolutely. We rinsed and reused a single wheat straw for months.
    In a bar/restaurant environment, washing and re-using straws is not practical and raises hygiene concerns. It’s best to compost the straws after guests use them.

    Can you eat wheat straws?

    Wheat straws are not edible. This becomes obvious the moment you try to bite one. It does not feel like food in your mouth. Imagine biting a plastic straw...a wheat straw has a similar consistency.


    Wheat straws will break-down naturally in any kind of compost. This includes both home composts and industrial composting facilities. 
    If a wheat straw were to end up in the ocean, it would naturally biodegrade there too (marine degradable).
    Wheat straws in a compost pile
    Wheat straws usually take around 6 weeks to break down in a home compost.
    This is different than many types of plant-based plastics (PLA), some of which are only compostable in industrial composting facilities. These facilities keep temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days.
    Industrial compost facility
    Many homes and businesses don’t have access to an industrial composting facility. 
    If an industrially compostable product ends up in the ocean, it will eventually break down into a microplastic, threatening marine life and possibly entering the food chain. 
    This is why it’s important to check if “compostable” products are “home compostable” or “industrially compostable”.
    Fresh soil from compost in hands

    Wheat straws come from the soil, and return to it.

    Is wheat genetically modified (GMO)? 

    No, genetically modified wheat is not commercially grown in any country. 
    According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), corn, soybeans, and cotton are the top 3 genetically modified crops.

    Where do wheat straws come from?

    Wheat is the most widely grown crop on earth. It grows on every continent (except for Antarctica).
    In the United States, after farmers collect the head of the plant for food production, they generally don’t burn the leftover stems (the stems are used for purposes such as animal bedding).
    In countries such as China and India, the leftover stems from wheat and rice fields are often burned. 

    Fire burning in wheat field

    Like forest fires, these large crop fires release carbon into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change.
    During the rice and wheat burning seasons, the fires create extreme air pollution in cities such as Delhi and Beijing.
    Smog and buildings in Beijing

    In India, many farmers burn their fields twice per year: once after the wheat harvest, and once after the rice harvest. The video below shows the effects of burning rice stems on Delhi’s air quality.

    The Solution to Burning 

    Instead of burning the leftover stems, farmers are realizing they can be sold as drinking straws.
    This is a win-win-win-win situation (win for farmers, win for bar owners, win for straw users, and win for the environment).

    Who are wheat straws for?

    Wheat straws can be used at home and especially in business settings such as:
    • Classic Food & Bev Businesses: bars, restaurants, coffee shops, catering companies
    • Other Hospitality: boat cruises, resorts, airlines, venues (conferences, sports, entertainment)
    • Other: office cafeterias, universities, summer camps, retreats, parties
    coconut and wheat drinking straw
    Wheat straws & coconuts go together like Tom Hanks & Wilson

    5 Things for Buyers to Consider

    Before switching to any new product, we run through the following checklist:
    New product checklist

    1. Guest Experience

    Is this product going to help to create both a positive and memorable guest experience?
    • Positive guest experience: people like using natural products and they appreciate it when a business makes an effort to serve sustainable products. 
    • Memorable guest experience: people notice drinking straws. They are a conversation starter and can lead to positive word-of-mouth advertising (in person and online).
    Instagram post of lady with cocktail and caption saying "Love the wheat straw"

    2. Are wheat straws safe?

    Yes, wheat straws are safe for both adults and kids. As long as a child is old enough to use a normal straw, they can use a wheat straw.
    Wheat straws are also 100% natural - there are no unsafe ingredients or chemicals used. Compare this with cheap paper straws that can contain toxic glues and dyes...or plastic straws that can contain chemicals such as BPA.
    As discussed earlier, humans have been safely using wheat straws for thousands of years.

    3. Practical

    In a busy bar/restaurant, washing and re-using straws made of materials such as metal or glass is not practical and raises hygiene and safety concerns.
    When a guest finishes their drink, simply toss the wheat straw out with the food scraps for composting.

    4. Sustainable

    5 reasons why wheat straws are in a sustainable class of their own:
    1. 100% biodegradable and home-compostable (reduces bar/restaurant waste)
    2. In the ocean, wheat straws will naturally break down and pose no risk to marine life.
    3. No manufacturing required (no cutting down trees, no paper mills, no petroleum products, no chemical process)
    4. Wheat plants are grown for food…the straws are just a leftover product.
    5. In many countries, farmers burn the leftover wheat stems to get rid of them. 

      5. Affordable - how much do wheat straws cost?

        Restaurant-grade wheat straws cost between 3 and 6 cents per straw depending on the order size. 
        A bar/restaurant sized order costs around 3 cents per straw. A small box of straws for a household costs around 5 cents per straw. 
        As with all products, quality varies between suppliers. We tested 3 cheap suppliers that we found on Amazon. The cheap wheat straws were low-quality and a waste of time.


        Price comparison table of drinking straws

        Are wheat straws Gluten Free?

        Can people with celiac disease and gluten intolerances use wheat straws?
        Short answer: 
        Yes, wheat stems are naturally gluten free. It’s important to check your wheat straw supplier’s website to make sure their straws are gluten free tested.
        Long answer: 
        The stem of the wheat plant (the drinking straw part) is naturally gluten free. Gluten is only found in the head of the plant (inside the “kernels”).
        Wheat plant with arrow pointing to gluten free stem
        As with all gluten free products, suppliers need to make sure there is no cross contamination. If a farmer handles the head and stem of the plant in the same facility, this could result in cross contamination.
        Accurate gluten testing is important (and it’s not cheap). This is why it’s important to buy your wheat straws from a reputable supplier.
        In order for a product to be labeled as “gluten free”, the FDA specifies the product must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Several celiac organizations recommend “gluten free” products contain less than 10 parts per million.

        Sizing Guide

        7 to 9 inches for a Standard straw: for a normal sized glass of water, juice, soda, iced tea, mojito, etc.
        4 to 5 inches for a Cocktail straw: for drinks commonly served in a lowball glass such as Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke, Old Fashioned (also for most coffee cups)
        4 kinds of straws side-by-side (paper, rice, plastic, wheat)

        Paper, rice, plastic, wheat


        Wheat stems grow naturally at a variety of different diameters. A typical wheat straw diameter varies between 3.5mm and 5mm (fine for normal drinks and cocktails).
        Tip: we suggest avoiding cheap wheat straw suppliers because they often provide straws that have a thinner diameter (2mm or less).
        Measuring tape and wheat straw showing diameter of 4-5mm
                                                                 3.5 - 5mm diameter

        Smoothies & Milkshakes?

        Wheat straws are not recommended for thick drinks such as milkshakes and smoothies. These drinks need a wider straw.
        We use wheat straws for 95% of our drinks and keep a box of jumbo straws for smoothies and milkshakes.

        Total Worldwide straw use

        The world still uses “a lot” of straws. Even with conservative estimates, it’s billions every week.

        Plastic floating in ocean infographic

        The majority of these billions of straws are plastic and paper. This is a big problem which requires a big solution.
        Wheat is the most widely grown crop on earth. There are “a lot” of wheat stems available. 
        Large field of golden wheat

        An abundant alternative

        Buyer’s Guide - 3 things to check before buying

        1. Restaurant-grade quality
        2. Gluten-free tested
        3. Return policy

        Strawphisticated Wheat Straws

          • Restaurant-grade quality
            Two boxes of Strawphisticated wheat drinking straws
          • Gluten free tested
          • 60-day returns
          • US company - straws shipped from South Dakota warehouse
          • Great display box - looks like straws are coming out of a glass

              Final thoughts

              Wheat straws are a natural and sustainable product that has been used for thousands of years. In recent times, paper and plastic straws have taken over and wheat straws have been forgotten. We believe the time has come to bring back wheat.

              Passion fruit mojito cocktail with wheat straw

              If you made it this far, you are probably interested in trying a wheat straw. Order a box...see if you like them (there’s a 60-day return policy if you decide they aren’t for you).