Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston: What is Purple Tea?

inside the tea industry sharyn johnston
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We know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water, but a relatively new “kid on the block" is pure purple tea from Kenya.

We also know tea comes in many varieties, each with a unique flavor, varying aromas, and natural health benefits. Purple tea stands out as a unique tea not only because of its liquor, which has a distinct mauve hue that develops due to anthocyanins, but also because of its interesting history and potential health benefits.

In the high mountains of Kenya, purple tea is gaining popularity not only because of its unique taste but also as an alternative tea to the traditional green and black tea varieties.

Purple tea is relatively new in the market and is derived from Camellia sinensis var assamica, which was originally discovered in the Assam region of India. The purple tea we have come to know today primarily comes from the tea-growing regions of Kenya.

purple tea bushes
Purple tea bushes in Kenya.

In the late 20th century, Kenyan tea researchers began exploring the potential opportunities for this purple-colored tea leaf. They discovered that these types of tea bushes with purple leaves may exhibit additional health benefits due to the high concentration of anthocyanins, antioxidants that can also be found in blueberries and red wine. 

The alleged health benefits of purple tea are mainly due to its unique chemical composition of antioxidants, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. These chemical compounds are known for helping protect the body from stress and could help support the immune system. It is also an example of innovation at its best in the tea industry.

The anthocyanins also give the tea its unique flavor profile. Purple tea has a woody aroma with an initial gentle, sweet taste finishing with a slight astringency; overall it is a refreshing tea. Purple tea also generally has a lower caffeine level compared to other tea categories, so this can be helpful as a soothing beverage later in the day.

purple tea leaf
On a recent visit to Kenya, Sharyn Johnston got to experience fresh plucked purple tea leaves.

Understanding the potential health benefits and possible market appeal, Kenyan growers started cultivating the purple leafed variety on a commercial level.

Kenya is blessed with rich soils, high altitude, and perfect climate, which is suitable not just for black tea but also purple tea. From its origins in Assam in India to its current commercial cultivation in Kenya, purple tea is a new modern-day variety outside of the standard tea categories.

Like all specialty teas, there are different grades, and you can explore some amazing purple buds that are like a silver needle pluck. They are superior in taste and natural sweetness, and this is a rare treat.

If you have the opportunity, it is well worth exploring a delicious cup of Kenyan Purple tea as a unique experience and one I am sure you will enjoy. You may wish to keep it as a customer offering or for your own personal use.


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 24-26, 2025

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