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What is Purple Tea? History, Benefits & More

Secret's out! 

Well, it was Kenya's best-kept secret. But the secret is out! While Kenya has been known as a producer of both coffee and tea for a while now, Kenya’s purple tea is set to be the next big thing on the tea scene.

While new and exciting teas are often being discovered or developed in Asia, especially China, Taiwan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, it is especially exciting to hear of a great tea coming from Africa. 

But for tea lovers who may have only heard of Kenyan purple tea for the first time, you may have some questions.

Like, what is purple tea? What does it taste like? Where exactly in Kenya does it come from? Does it have any unique health benefits? What about caffeine content? Keep reading to discover more about Kenyan purple tea!

What is Purple Tea?

Tea seems to reflect the colors of the rainbow these days; white, green, yellow, Oolong (sometimes called “blue”), black, and dark teas like Pu-erh. But now there is purple tea! Though, unlike the aforementioned colors, the designation of purple is not from the way the leaves are processed. But rather from a type of tea cultivar. 

Purple tea comes from a cultivar of genetically mutated Assamese tea leaves originally found in India but also occurring in China’s Yunnan. This mutation was found in the wild growing at altitudes of about 4,500 to 7,500 feet in the mountains, this varietal was taken to Kenya where it has been growing commercially. 

But what makes the tea “purple” if it isn’t processed differently? That is a result of the mutation these plants have developed. They have developed anthocyanin. 

Anthocyanin is the amino acid that gives blueberries their blue color. So it has gifted purple tea with its purple color, too! The wonder of this tea is more than leaf-deep too because anthocyanin is packed with antioxidants!

So what is purple tea? It is a mutation of the standard camellia sinensis plant. It was first found in Yunnan and brought to Kenya.

The purple color comes from the leaf color when the plants are grown rather than a change they experience when processed like other “colored” teas. 

What Does Purple Tea Taste Like?

One of the most fun parts of purple tea is that it does have an almost purplish hue to it once brewed. Don't expect a deep violet color but rather a light little hue to make your tea seem more mystical.

As for the flavor palate, purple tea is often said to synergize green, Oolong, and black flavors, hints, aromas, and notes. A light body free of astringency or bitterness.

The flavor is woodsy, sweet, floral, and delicate, evocative of an Oolong. The grassier and more vegetal hints and notes common in green are lacking but the general flavor has some similarities to greens in their brightness and freshness.

Kenya's purple tea is a keen hybrid in regards to flavors, aromas, hints, and notes. Choose Kenya's purple tea if you are looking for the easy smoothness of green, the richness of black, and the unique and nuanced flavors of Oolong.

Oh, and without much of the bitterness, bite, or astringency found in any of those three!

Where does purple tea come from?

Though very much associated with Kenya today, purple tea is actually not from there. Originally found growing wild in the mountains of the Yunnan province of China, purple tea can also trace its true origins to India’s Assam. 

This is because some of the first mutations were found in Assamese plants. Assamese is also known as camellia sinensis var. Assamica.

But once discovered, some of the cultivars were taken to Kenya, a country that has been producing great coffee and tea for a long time now! 

The move to Kenya was done to try to isolate and encourage the growth of the mutation in the tea plants to get more of the mysterious-looking purple leaves! Kenya’s Nandi Hills are the perfect growing region for purple tea.

Nandi Hills sports high altitudes and the fact it is so near to the equator leads to the plants enjoying higher UV exposure which enhances the production of antioxidants in the plants. 

Tea farm in Kenya with lush green tea plants and purple sky

Purple Tea Benefits

Like other camellia sinensis leaves, purple tea has a huge host of health benefits. But the additional anthocyanin takes things a step further in the health department.

If you are seeking the most potent tea type for antioxidants, then purple tea has every other leaf type beat for sure. Keep reading to discover purple tea’s health benefits.

  • Anthocyanin- This antioxidant is very powerful. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from oxidative stress and roaming free radicals. Antioxidants help promote and maintain overall health and slow down the signs and effects of aging. Anthocyanin gives other purple and blue foods their special colors. It also helps to support cardiovascular health, improve cognition, helps protect us from UV exposure, and fights inflammation, 
  • GHG polyphenol- This polyphenol is exclusively found in purple tea. It is believed to help reduce the thickness and mass of body fat by helping to break down fats for easy digestion.
  • EGCG- This compound is also found in green and other teas, Epigallocatechin gallate is believed to aid in brain function, help us manage our weight, guard against brain and heart disease and ailments, and reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Caffeine- Purple tea has actually been found to possess a little bit less caffeine. It has a little more than white tea and less than green which makes it a great choice for those who are sensitive to too much caffeine! However, caffeine still does have keen health benefits. Caffeine keeps us awake, alert, vigilant, and may increase brain function. Caffeine also enhances our physical performance and can help to stimulate our metabolism. This helps to burn fat as fuel and stimulates weight loss, too!
  • L-theanine- Despite being lower in caffeine, purple tea still possesses L-theanine. This amino acid allows us to remain calm and alert rather than jittery or anxious when we get caffeine in our bodies. It also allows us to land softly instead of having a nasty caffeine crash as we might experience with coffee!
  • Potential anti-carcinogen- Studies have found that teas from the true tea family may contribute to lower percentage chances of developing various kinds of cancer. Some potential forms of cancer that tea may possibly help guard us against include colorectal cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • Improved brain function- Tea can help keep our brains functioning properly, and can even potentially reduce our risks of developing Alzeimer's. 
  • Cardiovascular health- Purple tea, like other teas in the true tea family, helps to improve our circulation. That is not all, tea can also help promote proper heart health and can even potentially reduce our risks of developing heart disease.
  • Polyphenols and amino acids- Found in teas, and found in huge quantities in purple tea, polyphenols and amino acids help to increase longevity, and promote overall health.
  • Vitamins and minerals- Tea provides our bodies with magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium, and vitamin C. Just to name a few!
  • Overall health- The combination of antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, anthocyanin, and amino acids all come together in an incredible ensemble. The result? Increased overall health and longevity. Enjoying purple tea daily is a wise choice to make indeed!

Purple Tea Caffeine Content

As mentioned above, purple tea is like a featherweight when it comes to caffeine content. This gives it lots of possibilities when it comes to when we can enjoy purple tea and how much we can enjoy it in a sitting. 

Since it only possesses about 8.8 milligrams per cup as opposed to the average 28-30 milligrams green tea has, we can enjoy purple tea later in the day without fearing for our sleep!

Purple tea s perfect for those who might be sensitive to caffeine or for those who are winding down the day and wanting to get a full 8 hours in. Opt for purple tea after dessert rather than coffee, green, or black tea!

Kenya’s best-kept secret…

That is until today! Purple tea looks like a magical and mysterious plant that only exists in a fantasy world. The health benefits might support this image, too. But luckily for us, purple tea is very, very real!

Not only is it real, but you can brew up a pot of it and enjoy it yourself today. We hope you do and enjoy all that purple tea goodness and the super-charged antioxidants of Kenya's purple tea!