purple tea plantation in Assam

Purple Tea

Purple tea – benefits and possibilities

A particular variety of tea cultivar (TRFK 306) in Kenya produces tea leaves with purple color. Purple tea is produced exclusively from the leaves plucked from this variety of tea plant. Similar to the color of the leaves, the tea manufactured with these leaves produces tea that too is purple in color. One polyphenolic antioxidant called anthocyanin is abundantly found in this tea and it is solely responsible for the unique purple  color of this tea.

Why purple tea was introduced in Kenya?

Adverse repercussions of severe drought, pest and diseases was always posed a big challenge to the tea industry of Kenya. In its research, the tea research foundation of Kenya found that this tea was capable of withstanding these challenges. 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.  Over a period of time since its introduction, purple tea has retained its  value for money proposition for the tea planters of Kenya. But more than that, its lovers all over the world prefer it for the superior health benefits it offers.

purple tea- a tepot and two cups with tea

Assam connection of purple tea

This tea has a much deeper implication in the context of Assam’s tea scenario. In news reports covered in many image of purple tea plants newspapers, Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI)’s Senior Advisory Officer (Senior Principal Scientist) Dr. Pradip Barua, who is also in the expert panel of myassamtea explains, “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.”

Dr. Baruah further adds that the clone TRFK 306/1 used in Kenya for purple tea plantation was originally from Assam. The tea expert further declares that  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).

What is anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins are the largest group pigment found in the plant kingdom that is water-soluble, collectively known as flavonoids. They are the most important flavonoids found in this purple colored tea as well as many other fruits and vegetables.  It is responsible for the reddish, blue or purple color in many other plants like purple grapes, blueberries, red cabbage or eggplants, cranberries, plums, and pomegranate etc. a girl enjoying purple tea

Health benefits of anthocyanins

There are many additional benefits we can derive from purple tea for the presence of anthocyanins in it.

  1. It can act as an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent as they inherently own the free radical fighting property. Studies done on cell-lines levels, human clinical trials and animal models have indicates the beneficial effects of anthocyanins in this regard.
  2. The antioxidant property of anthocyanins can control heart diseases, diabetes and obesity too.
  3. Anthocyanins are anti-allergic, anti-viral, anti-proliferative, anti-microbial, anti-mutagenic and hence very much beneficial for us.
  4. It can prevent peripheral capillary fragility, which is commonly found in diabetics. Anthocyanins also can improve vision.

The studies done in last two decades have brought the beneficial effects of anthocyanins to the fore front. This has made this purple colored tea already a winner. However the potential of this variety of  tea in promoting our health is yet to be fully explored. More research and studies in this direction in the future will surely 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