Morning has broken and your customary cuppa is waiting. Here’s why it should be a cup of purple tea, the newest in the beverage’s ‘colour scheme’

Sure, there may be nothing like asli ‘cutting’ or a cup of tea the milk and sugar way, but certainly not as routine or in the long run; proven by the fact that moderate tea (without additives) drinkers live a substantially longer and healthier life. It’s an acquired taste, say some. But health very often is, and once you do acquire it, it’s a taste that lingers. With a flavour that’s astringent with sweet lingering notes, purple tea is slated to be the next ‘green‘. However, it will be time till it enters the Indian market. And with the potential the second highest tea producing nation has, it will be something to sip on.

Recent revelations bring to light the origin of purple tea from our very own Assam’s Karbi Anglong estate with the clone released to the planters in 2011 in Kenya for commercial production. Currently, Kenya is the only country that produces purple tea which fetches three to four times the price of black tea and has established both a domestic as well as export market. Varieties in the purple chai produced there include the popular oolong, green tea and high-end Silver Needle white, all of which carry fruity aromas with a distinct earthy flavour and undertones of berry.

With an abundance of wild purple tea plants found in the forested regions of Assam, there is potential enough for the cultivation of the tea. As Dr Baruah of the Tocklai Tea Research Institute states, “The germplasm collection at Tocklai has purple tea plants, commonly known as ‘ox blood’. So, Assam has tremendous potential to produce purple tea, as it is the tea of the future, with regards to health benefits.”

The anthocyanins – pigments from which purple tea derives its rich colour and which is responsible for the hue that defines blueberries and cranberries, too – carries the ability to protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cardiovascular dieseases and potentially cancer, as research studies in Kenya have revealed. The capacity to scavenge for free radicals makes them good antioxidants, thus leading to preventive cancer properties. A cup of purple tea can go the distance in increasing blood sugar metabolism, improving vision and good cholesterol. When steamed to produce green-purple tea, the antioxidants are higher which help reduce hypertension and cardiac arrests. It also sports a lower caffeine and higher catechin content – the latter being the major component of green tea extract as well – which helps in the reduction of body fat and the increase of HDL (good cholesterol) in men. When purple tea leaves are oxidised, the cathecins lead to the release of theaflavins which render a brisk taste to the tea – the more brisk, the better the quality of the cup and the higher its thirst-quenching properties.

Purple is the new green, they say. For us, devoted tea drinkers, we’re waiting with cups empty for purple tea to come our way… for tea has gone beyond just a ‘hot beverage’ to start the day, tea is a ‘life saver’ now.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2015 issue of UpperCrust magazine and is used here with prior permission from the publisher.