21st
Feb
2017

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Purple tea


Tea comes in a bright array of colours: black, white, green and yellow of course, not to mention oolong which is sometimes referred to as blue tea and let's not forget orange pekoe. As true teas they are all produced from the same plant, camellia sinensis; it's the way that they're processed that results in the colour, with black teas being fully oxygenated, while white and green teas require the least processing. More recently another colour has been added to this diverse spectrum- purple. For those who haven't heard of purple tea, let alone tried it yet, you may be forgiven for thinking we're pulling your leg, but no, we're serious about tea here at the Kafevend blog, so let's take a look at this recent addition to the tea rainbow!

Health benefits


Thus far, purple tea is cultivated solely in Kenya, in the rich volcanic soil found in the environs of Mount Kenya. Over the past twenty five years or so the Kenyan Tea Development Authority has been seeking ways to diversify and appeal to tea enthusiasts willing to pay more for a quality cup, and also to those who drink tea as a way to enhance their health. Research into the health benefits of purple tea certainly seems to suggest that it ticks all the same boxes as green tea, with the added benefit of being far more palatable. It contains a flavonoid known as anthocyanin, found also in vegetables like red onions and red cabbage, which despite their names are of course purple! These anthocyanins have been linked in studies to a reduction in cardiovascular disease. If you ever read the blurb on your favourite tea, it's bound to cite antioxidants as one of its benefits. Antioxidants are basically good for us and happily, purple tea contains a greater range of them than other teas. The health benefits inherent in a cup of purple tea, coupled with its milder flavour, mean that it's a good choice for those who want to maximise their tea's health benefits, but who find green tea hard to stomach.

Where else can it be grown?


The majority of purple tea plants are of the Assam variety, so it comes as no surprise that tea growers in India's Assam province are very interested in the viability of growing purple tea there. In fact, wild purple tea plants have been found growing in the hilly, forested areas of Karbi Anglong, a district within Assam. Founded back in 1911, Assam's Tocklai Tea Research Institute has a germ-plasm collection which includes the purple tea plant, known also by another name- 'ox-blood'. They weren't thought any good for inclusion within the Assam tea range, but it seems they've now had a change of fortune as Assam tea growers seek to diversify their output and make the most of this new niche in the tea market. Time will tell if purple tea can be cultivated as successfully back in Assam as it is in Kenya. Meanwhile, if we've whetted your appetite Williamson Tea grow purple tea on one of their farms in Kenya and it's available via their online shop- here's the link.

References:
Kenyan purple tea
Purple tea in India

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