We are all familiar with the various tea types such as black tea, green tea, oolong and so forth. But have you heard of purple tea?
Purple tea is being marketed and sold mainly by Kenya-based tea growers. Although some purple tea exists in India and China, for economic reasons Kenya is aggressively trying to develop and commercialize this newer form of tea. Agriculture and Tourism are the biggest money makers in Kenya, and of the agricultural products, tea is the biggest category. However, much of the tea produced is black tea, of which a large portion is the staple variety which has seen downward pricing pressures over recent years.
Enter purple tea, which was developed to carve out a new niche for Kenyan tea farmers. It is able to command a higher price than the typical Kenyan black tea – thus helping the farmers increase income. Purple tea production is still not widespread, and other regions of the world are looking at this tea and we may see further varieties and development depending on how the Kenyan experience turns out.
So what is purple tea exactly?
Purple tea, like all other tea, originates from the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, a genetic mutation has managed to produce a tea with higher levels of anthocyanin – which gives this tea its unusual purple appearance. It is the same antioxidant that gives blueberries, raspberries and other red/purple foods their color. Purple tea contains 1.5 percent anthocyanins compared to .1 percent for blueberries.
Anthocyanin has many medicinal properties and is particularly known to be beneficial against cardiovascular diseases. These anti-oxidants are known to provide anti-cancer benefits, improve vision, and aid in cholesterol and blood sugar metabolism. At the same time, caffeine content is lower than that of black or green tea.
Purple tea also contains higher amounts of polyphenols than black or green teas (16.5 percent versus 10.1 percent for black and 9.1 for green). It also has a polyphenol called GHG which is not found in other tea varieties. Initial research has shown that it can decrease fat mass & thickness while increasing lean body mass. Researchers think this is caused by GHG affecting lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fats so the body can easily digest them.
Purple tea also has high levels of catechins. These neuro-protective antioxidants permeate the blood brain barrier, and in a study performed on mice, significantly boosted brain antioxidant capacity.
What does Purple Tea taste like?
Purple tea is sweet and woodsy, and seems to be a very forgivable tea.
We used boiling water and steeped for about 3 minutes and noticed almost no astringency. Purple tea itself has a dark color, however the steep is light, with a slight purplish hue. Some have said it has both black and green characteristics. We found it to taste very much like a green tea, with no-astringency and no tannin bitterness. Because of its forgiving nature, a good way for people looking to increase their health is to hop on the purple tea bandwagon.
Price wise purple tea is pretty reasonable. It’s not in the same league as a high end green tea from China, but perhaps we’ll see fancier grades evolve over time. The unique nature of this tea also makes it an idea blending component, and there is already a blend being developed known as TruGrit which incorporates this tea along with some other powerful ingredients. Other vendors are using purple tea in ready to drink bottles.
In conclusion, if you currently drink tea, or want another healthy ‘green’ tea alternative, we recommend giving purple tea a try.
This article has been updated from the original publication, January, 2017.