Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter of black tea and the crop is one of the country’s top hard currency earners, along with tourism and cash sent home by citizens living abroad.
Purple tea, which was developed by Kenyan researchers and released to farmers in 2011, is part of a slew of new varieties, which the government says have the potential to cushion farmers from oversupply of black tea and low prices.
“Purple tea is twice the price of (regular) tea,” said Karanja Kinyanjui, the owner of a farm in central Kenya, which has 20 acres of purple tea alongside 100 acres of the regular variety.
Unlike black tea, purple tea is not fermented in processing, and contains anthocyanin and other substances which experts say have health benefits, such as helping with weight loss.
“(It has) very strong anti-inflammatory effects,” said Samson Kamunya, director of the state-owned Kenya Tea Research Foundation.
Total production figures for speciality teas were not immediately available but the leading producer, KTDA, said in September it was setting up a specialised factory for the production of Japanese sencha green tea.