Hand-Rolled Fermented Purple Tea from Mount Kenya
Today’s review is a first in two aspects. This Hand-Rolled Fermented Purple Tea is the first “purple” tea that I have tasted. Technically, this tea is a wulong tea according to processing technique classification (semi-oxidized). Secondly, this will be the first tea infused in my new Kuro Sendan Tokoname teapot.
This purple tea was produced in the Kangaita Factory in the southern slopes of Mount Kenya. Many people have not heard of purple tea, and it is a rather new cultivar of tea bush that has been under development in Kenya for about twenty-five years. The primary difference between purple tea and other tea cultivars is that the leaves of purple tea bushes are actually somewhat purple instead of green. The leaves are purple due to the high content of the antioxidant and pigmentation called anthocyanin, compared to the chlorophyll pigmentation in green tea bushes. This new clone, the TRFK 306/1, is frost, draught, disease, and pest resistant. The Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) is hoping that this new clone will help generate three to four times the revenue that the current black teas generate, helping the tea farmers earn a better living. Click here for a link directly to the TRFK website on Purple Tea.
The sample pack is opened, and a sweet scent of honey and ripe fruit is filling the air. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a dark purple-black color with a few silver streaks. The leaves are long, wiry, and tightly rolled. There is a clear pluck of two leaves and a bud. Some of the tips are quite long. A few of the leaves appear to be large fragments to whole leaves, with the majority being medium sized fragments. The aroma is very sweet and attractive, with scents of honey, caramel, and dried stone fruit.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.5 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale yellow-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet, with scents of ripe citrus fruit and honey. The body is medium, with a soft, delicate feel. The taste is nicely balanced and brisk, with notes of ripe citrus fruit (orange), flowers, and minerals. A light mineral (metallic) effect is left on the tongue. The aftertaste is sweet, with a light floral essence left on the breathe. This tea has a very refreshing quality to it.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a darker shade of yellow-orange. The aroma remains sweet, lighter on the ripe citrus fruit, making the honey smell more potent. The body remains medium. The taste has lightened on the citrus fruit, making the floral and mineral notes more influential. The mineral feel on the tongue remains, as well as the lightly sweet aftertaste and light floral essence.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of yellow-orange than the second infusion, and quite similar in color to the first infusion. The aroma has lightened, but remains sweet and lightly fruity. The body remains medium. The taste has lightened more on the fruit, and the fruity taste resembles papaya more than citrus at this point. The floral and mineral notes are still obvious. The third infusion maintains the refreshing quality of the first infusion.
The infused leaves have a copper color with a purple tint. There are few whole, unbroken leaves, but the few that are present are fairly large (nearly two inches or 50 mm). Most of the leaves are medium to large fragments. There are quite a few whole tips. The pluck is two leaves and a bud. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The aroma is sweet and fruity.
This Hand-Rolled Fermented Purple Tea was uniquely refreshing. For a higher oxidized (fermented) tea, the body was quite light and exhibited more properties of a wulong tea than a black tea. I have one more variety of purple tea to try, being the steamed purple tea. I will be posting that review shortly. Due to the purported antioxidant properties of this tea, and the lighter, pleasant taste, I can imagine this tea can appeal to a large number of people. I certainly enjoyed my first experience with this relatively new style of tea, and look forward to the continued development of this cultivar in Kenya and elsewhere. Cheers!