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Purple tea

Purple tea is a relatively new variety of the tea plant Camellia sinensis that has been bred in several tea producing countries, like Kenya, China, Japan and India. It has been described as similar to oolong, lighter than black tea but not quite as vegetal tasting as the green tea. Purple tea is exceptionally rich in anthocyanins, in addition to catechins and other phenolic compounds, known for their protective antioxidative action, and contains less caffeine than other varieties.

Nutrition and bioactive compounds

Chemical composition of tea is complex and includes polyphenols, amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, pigments, volatile compounds, minerals, trace elements, and alkaloids such as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. Polyphenols are the main bioactive molecules in purple tea, and anthocyanins are responsible for its characteristic colour. Flavours and bioactive properties depend mostly on the tea variety, but also on the geographical origin, agronomic practices, climatic conditions, seasons and processing methods.

The tea beverage has positive effects on wellbeing due to the extensive content of secondary metabolites found in the leaves, including flavonoids, theanine, and volatile oils. For example, they may decrease the risk of several age and obesity related chronic diseases, act as neuroprotective agents in the brain or exhibit antimicrobial activity

Cultivation

Purple tea is produced from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis, which is the same plant from which black, green, oolong, and other types of tea are made. All are harvested from one of the two major varieties grown today, C.s. var. sinensis and C.s. var. assamica.

C. sinensis is native to East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia, but it is cultivated across the world, mostly in the tropical and subtropical regions. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually trimmed to hight below 2 m (6.6 ft). The tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are usually harvested for the processing every one to two weeks.

Uses

  • Leaves: tea beverage (differences among the teas result from the various processing); potential dietary supplement of anthocyanins; fortifying nutrition of various foods, for example probiotic tea fortified yoghurt; food colorants.

  • Seeds: tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil.

Market and production

Purple tea has been in the stores only for several years but is already gaining great interest of the consumers. Several varieties have been recently released in Kenya, China, Japan and India. For the countries like Kenya, where 95% of tea is being exported, speciality teas are of a great economic importance.