As an acknowledgement to Purple Day (Epilepsy), we take a look at one of the lesser known teas that has been causing waves in the past few years. The tea in question is purple tea. It is being viewed as one of the alternatives to the health benefits of green tea and is expected to grab a larger share of the market in the years to come. And why not, this heavyweight packs a punch like no other. It contains almost 2 times the number of antioxidants when compared to other teas and also has a unique look, taste and natural chemical changes.
Not surprisingly, it can be traced back to one of the finest tea growing regions of the world
The origins of this tea are believed to be from certain areas of the famed tea growing state of Assam, India. The clone, named TRFK 306/1, had presence of wild bushes in areas with variable terrain like Karbi Anglong- known to be full of forests over a hilly area. At the same time, it has also been found in the Cachar district which is different in terms of territory. Some of the parts of Upper Assam are also believed to have been home to such bushes, but this is not ascertained completely.
Aesthetic redefined…purple all the way
While the leaves turn purple in colour, due to an inimitable genetic transformation, purple tea is actually similar to black tea and is made via the orthodox style of manufacturing. The liquor which is produced from these leaves is quite full and also has a slight purple tinge to it. The steep itself is quite light though.
While it may be soothing to the eye, the mouth also has no reason to complain
For those who are not fans of astringency or the bitterness produced by tannins in tea, you could have just found your cup of tea. Neither does it have the vegetal or grassy taste it used to have when the initial research started. Some of the people who drunk this tea have said that it, surprisingly, exhibits flavour characteristics of both green and black tea. It also has a plummy sort of aroma with a woodsy feel and is quite pleasant and sweet to the palate. Though similar to green tea, it is more sensitive to steep time and temperature when brewing. The pleasant taste of purple tea comes as a result of the leaves being oxidized after being rolled and broken.
A ‘superfood’ in itself
Fending off UV rays and controlling leaf temperatures are all part of this parcel
These teas are produced at elevations of 4500 – 7500 feet and are mainly being handled by tea growers who are based out of Kenya. None of it, though, is believed to be certified as organic purple tea as of now though this may come up in future. Because of the proximity to the equator, these teas get exposed to a much higher amount of UV rays. As a result, the plants produce extremely high levels of antioxidants to protect the leaves from getting damaged. This also helps to increase the temperature in the leaves during cold spells. Due to the genetic transformation, apart from the change in colour, there is antioxidant called anthocyanin that is produced. Purple tea contains 1.5 times the number of antioxidants that are found in blueberries- one of the better known ‘superfoods’ around.
This type of antioxidant is most prevalent in purple tea
This powerful antioxidant is quite beneficial for cardiovascular diseases, amongst others. Given that it is almost twice as loaded with antioxidants when compared to other teas, this should not be surprising. Anthocyanin has a higher quantity of polyphenols (type of antioxidant) as well when compared with green or black tea and stands at 16.5% to 10.1% for black and 9.1% for green. It also has lower caffeine levels than these counterparts which makes it a win-win situation.
Catechins are another antioxidant which is found prominently in purple tea as well as green tea. A major catechin, EGCG, is known to help boost the antioxidant capacity in the brain, as past studies have shown that is has the able to enter the blood areas of the brain which are closed to others. All of this, amongst others, contribute towards anti-cancer benefits while also providing boosts for blood sugar metabolism, cholesterol and vision. People with low blood pressure, though, are advised to let levels come back to normal before drinking purple tea as it is said to lower pressure even further.
In general, foods which have a natural purple colour have been recently been termed as ‘superfoods’ since they are all supposed to contain high levels of anthocyanins which are pigments for colour. The youngest leaves of purple tea contain the highest concentration of catechins.
The Jackpot- GHG
When something unique also has a unique health benefit
While quite a few foods and other tea contain some or all of the abovementioned properties, purple tea is unrivaled in one particular aspect. It contains a special polyphenol known as GHG that has an amazing health benefit. After some basic research, it has shown signs of increasing lean body mass while cutting down on fat thickness and mass at the same time. It is believed that purple tea liaises with a fat breaking enzyme called lipase that helps the body to digest better. How amazing is that!!!!!!
What lies ahead
The picture should become brighter, bigger and clearer for purple tea in the future
As we look towards the times that lie ahead, one of the biggest positives is that the taste is expected to improve further. People will learn to not only cultivate the bushes better, they will also finetune the manufacturing processes to produce even higher quality teas– teas that could become as popular as black teas while exhibiting health benefits of green tea.
The good thing for India is that it can become only the second country in the world to start producing purple tea. Given the various advance that technology has made over the years, it should not come as a surprise if India starts manufacturing purple tea. After all, this is where its roots lie.