Purple tea – benefits and possibilities

You perhaps will find very few food beverage items more colorful than tea. We have green tea, white tea, black tea, and even yellow tea also! Given a choice, we will definitely face a tough time finalizing one among all of these color variants! Now making things even worse, one more color – purple, has been added to the list of tea colors, making things even more confusing! But whatever your take on purple tea, it is going to stay with us even if you like it or not!

Manufactures can produce purple tea only from the leaves plucked from a particular variety of tea plant whose color is also purple. And if you use the tea manufactured with these purple tea leaves, then you will get a cup of tea whose color is also purple! The planters use a particular variety of tea cultivar (TRFK 306) to produce this tea.

Why purple tea was introduced in Kenya?

The tea industry in Kenya has been facing adverse situations like severe drought, pest and diseases since long. However the tea research foundation of Kenya accepted this as a challenge. In its research, the foundation scientists found that purple tea can withstand these adverse situations very easily. Hence in a bid to offer relief to the growers from the onslaught of drought, pest and diseases, the tea research foundation of Kenya introduced this new variety of tea in Kenya. Over a period of time since its introduction, the tea planters of Kenya have time and again realized the value for money proposition of purple tea. But more than that, its lovers all over the world prefer it for the superior health benefits.

purple tea- a tepot and two cups with tea

Assam connection of purple tea

This tea has a deeper connection with Assam. More specifically, the clone TRFK 306/1, which Kenya has been using for  purple tea plantation, was originally from Assam. As per Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI)’s Senior Advisory Officer (Senior Principal Scientist) Dr. Pradip Barua, who is also in the expert panel of myassamtea, the wild bushes of this tea variety have been found in the Longai area of Cachar district in Barak Valley and hilly forested areas of Karbi Anglong district. According to him the possibility of its presence in more areas of Upper Assam cannot be ruled out. “The germplasm collection at Tocklai has this variety of tea plants, commonly known as ‘ox blood’,” as per Dr. Baruah. (The purple tea photos used in this article are courtesy Dr. Baruah).

In news reports covered in many image of purple tea plants newspapers, Dr. Baruah further adds that, “Assam has tremendous potential to produce this variety of tea, as it is the tea of the future as far as health benefits are concerned. Besides, such tea bushes are still found in the state.”

What is anthocyanins?

You may wonder, how this tea gets its this unique color! The secret behind this is an polyphenolic antioxidant, which we call anthocyanin. It is abundantly found in this tea and is solely responsible for the magic color of this tea!

Anthocyanins are the largest group water-soluble pigment that we can find in the plant kingdom, which we collectively call flavonoids. They are the most important flavonoid that you will find not only in this purple colored tea but also in many other fruits and vegetables.  Many other plants like purple grapes, blueberries, red cabbage or eggplants, cranberries, plums, and pomegranate etc. get their reddish, blue or purple color from anthocyanins.a girl enjoying purple tea

Health benefits of purple tea:

There are many additional benefits we can derive from purple tea due to the abundantly present anthocyanins in it.

  1. Anthocyanins inherently own a free radical fighting property. Thus they can act as an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent. You will see that many  studies done on cell-lines levels, human clinical trials and animal models have indicated the beneficial effects of anthocyanins on these.
  2. The antioxidant property of anthocyanins can control heart diseases, diabetes and obesity too.
  3. We can get multiple benefits from anthocyanins as they are anti-allergic, anti-viral, anti-proliferative, anti-microbial, anti-mutagenic.
  4. It can prevent peripheral capillary fragility, which is commonly found in diabetics.
  5. Anthocyanins also can improve vision.

Scientists have conducted several studies during the last two decades which have brought forward the beneficial effects of anthocyanins to the centerstage. This has made this purple colored tea already a winner. However we are yet to fully explore the potential of this variety of  tea in promoting our health. With more research and studies on purple tea and the antioxidant present in it, we will be able to know more about this magic beverage which in the long run will make purple tea even more popular.

News report on ‘Assam has potential to produce purple tea: Expert’

The Economic Times, December 28, 2014

The Hindu, December 29, 2014

The Times of India, February 1, 2015