Thanks to the efforts of Royal Tea of Kenya (RTK), Kenyan tea is on the map. Just a short half dozen years ago, high-quality, loose-leaf tea was not the first association tea lovers made when Kenyan tea was mentioned. But that impression has changed – big time. When people ask me what I am drinking, more often than not, my answer is Kenyan tea – these days, RTK’s Mt. Abejares, an orthodox black Kenyan tea.
Earlier this year, RTK made a splash with its Handcrafted Purple Tea, the only company to offer it. Purple tea? Let me explain. It derives its kingly name from the dry leaf’s mixture of black, beige, and forest green colors, which combine to create a purple sheen. A whiff of the tea’s twisted, twig-like dry leaf conjures up a field of ripe artichoke plants, but steep up a pot and the scent changes to that of caramel apples. It’s the perfect tea for fall, when the heat of summer gives way to a chill in the air.
To a large extent, personal taste governs steeping times. I chose to steep RTK’s purple tea for 3.5 minutes in water that had just been brought to the boil. I was generous with the tea-to-water ratio (2 teaspoons of tea to 8 ounces of water). The resulting liquor was a rich amber color with a silky texture on the tongue and no bitterness. Like many fine teas, purple tea holds up well over multiple steepings, imparting varying flavor profiles.
Perhaps surprisingly, purple tea was developed 25 years ago by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya. Grown on the southern slopes of Mount Kenya, between the Rundu and Mukengeria Rivers, purple tea is produced from a clonal varietal of Camellia sinensis with especially high levels of anthocyanidins, which contribute to purple tea’s distinctive color. Initially, the small-scale farmers in Kenya responsible for producing purple tea were reluctant to market it outside of Kenya. But over time, RTK convinced them that tea lovers around the world would rejoice once they sampled the tea and thank them for it. Indeed, that is what happened. In February, Joy Njuguna, RTK’s Founder and Chief Operating Officer, launched the tea during a lecture at the University of Montana in Missoula. Since then, the tea world has been abuzz with talk of this rarest of Kenyan teas.
With fall just around the corner, why not contact RTK to find out how to acquire your very own stash of purple tea?
Photos provided by Royal Tea of Kenya