The Color Purple (of Tea)

Purple tea
Purple tea

Of the six main categories of tea, four are commonly associated with a specific color. There’s black and green, of course, and there’s also white, a variety that has become more popular lately. Yellow tea is lightly processed and is more or less produced along similar lines as green tea. Yellow tea is not nearly so well-known as the other types. The two types of tea that are not typically associated with a color are puerh and oolong, though the latter may occasionally be referred to as blue tea.

Most people are probably aware of at least two or three of the previously mentioned “colored” teas, but how many of us have ever heard of purple tea? Not many so far, but if tea growers in Africa have anything to say about it that’s about to change. Purple tea, or TRFK 306/1, to use the not so catchy name currently in use, is a relatively new tea variety, although it has been in development for about twenty-five years. It originated in the African country of Kenya, which is currently one of the world’s leading producers of black tea.

Purple tea, according to the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya, which was instrumental in developing it, is useful for a number of reasons, most notable its high anthocyanin content. According to the Foundation, anthocyanins are “powerful antioxidants and have health enhancing properties.”

This new type of tea was in development for almost a quarter of a century but it was only submitted to the Kenyan government for approval in early 2011 and was approved for commercial production in August of this year. One of the substantial benefits for Kenya’s tea growers is that the purple variety is expected to bring financial returns of up to four times as much as black tea.

For more information about purple tea refer to this article at the Tea Research Foundation’s web site.

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10 thoughts on “The Color Purple (of Tea)

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  5. It seems it is an interesting and lengthy process to develop a new tea, 25 years. I wonder more about your experience Nigel and where you acquired the tea you sampled. Did you find it bland or some other quality? I’d like to check it out. Maybe there will be some at the Seattle Tea Festival in Oct. Two days of testing.

    Tea yay! Beets….not so much.

  6. Several of the leaves on the tea plants (C. sinensis) that are growing in pots in our garden have turned a purple colour from the super-hot, dry weather. As have the leaves of a number of our other plantings. Is that how the purple tea got its start? I wasn’t going to pluck and infuse the purpled tea leaves, but just might do so after reading this. (And, happily, I have some pickled beets in the ‘fridge to go with it.)

  7. I have tasted Kenya purple tea twice so far and was unimpressed with the experience. The KTDA is hyping this as a high price added-value specialty tea with the USP of a “health benefit” due to presence of the purple plant pigment anthocyanin. IF anthocyanin has any benefit I would recommend a good plateful of beetroot rather than the puny amount afforded by infusing 2 grams of tea.

    Nigel at Teacraft

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Good point, Nigel, as always. We like at least to introduce our readers to the latest tea news and fads out there. So much was floating around on Twitter and Facebook that I asked Bill to look into it and give us some more info. Lots of health hype on this and on tea and herbals in general. By the way, I love pickled beetroot – yum!

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