Bella Gwada collects purple-spiked tea leaves on a farm in central Kenya early on a Saturday morning before proceeding to process, prepare and test products that had been harvested earlier.
Gwada, who traveled 42 kilometers from Nairobi to enjoy the experience, is part of a rapidly growing consumer base in the East African nation that is flocking to specialty teas, including purple tea, due to its benefits for health.
“You don’t even need to add sugar. It is easily digestible, smoother than black tea, ”he said.
Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea, and the harvest is one of the most money-generating in the country, along with tourism and cash sent home by citizens living abroad.
The purple tea, which was developed by Kenyan researchers and delivered to farmers in 2011, is part of a series of new varieties, which the government says have the potential to protect farmers from black tea oversupply and low prices.
“Purple tea is twice the price of (regular) tea,” said Karanja Kinyanjui, the owner of the farm, which has 20 acres of purple tea along with 100 acres of the regular variety.
Unlike black tea, purple tea is not fermented during processing and contains anthocyanins and other substances that experts say have health benefits, such as helping you lose weight.
“(It has) very strong anti-inflammatory effects,” said Samson Kamunya, director of the state-owned Kenya Tea Research Foundation.
Total production figures for specialty teas were not immediately available, but leading producer KTDA said in September that it was setting up a specialized factory for the production of Japanese sencha green tea.