But black tea is now facing some serious competition from its cousin purple tea – which contains a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin.
Purple tea, which was introduced in Kenya in 2008 by the Kenya Tea Development Authority, is already gaining huge traction worldwide due to its perceived health benefits.
The commodity is currently being exported to many European countries, China, the United States, Japan and India with the number of orders from all over the world continuing to rise.
“Kenya is the only country in the world that grows purple tea and having a ready market for growers, with a good price on top, is a good motivation for producers to increase their production,” Head of Tea Directorate Sam Ogola said in a recent tea conference in the United States.
As the name suggests, purple tea is purple in colour and is grown only in Kenya at high altitudes and near the equator resulting in more exposure to high intensities of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
To protect its leaves from damage by the high UV radiation levels the plant is forced to produce antioxidants especially anthocyanin which gives the leaves their characteristic purple colour.
Anthocyanin is a compound which possesses numerous health benefits due to its ability to trace free radicals in the human body and to relieve inflammation in the cells.
Anthocyanin plays an important role in preventing and managing lifestyle diseases including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. It also aids in the metabolism of cholesterol leading to weight loss.
Besides being rich in antioxidants, the purple teas has a very low caffeine content making it a great option for those who want to enjoy a great drink and still avoid symptoms associated with caffeine consumption.
Owing to its significant health benefits, it is more costly than other orthodox teas and can be considered an upmarket product. Locally a 1kg packet of processed purple tea retails at Sh2000 while a similar amount of black tea sells at Sh350.
In japan, purple tea is famed for its benefits to the skin such as anti-ageing abilities, oxygenation and evening out of the skin tone. It is also used on the scalp to prevent hair loss.
Purple tea is expected to be a game charger for Kenyan farmers and entrepreneurs since it gives them an advantage in the competitive global market currently riddled with the mass produced black tea.