New Green Tea made from a purple tea cultivar!
I’ve been to Kenya twice on photo safari but never saw any tea plantations. In honor of the beauty of Kenya, its magnificent (and fragile) wildlife, and the amazing people I met there, I wanted a Swahili name for this tea. Uchawi Zambarau means Magic Purple. The magic comes from the rarity of finding purple cultivars outside of the Yunnan area in China. I love the unique flavors and characteristics of purple tea cultivars but primarily find them processed to black or pu-erh tea. This is only the second purple leaf cultivar I’ve found processed to a green tea and the first outside of Yunnan.
The purple characteristic in the leaf and sometimes in the liquor is a result of the plant producing anthocyanin flavonoids, as a natural reaction to the high UV light at higher altitudes or due to genetic mutation. Anthocyanins are the color pigments that are found in red-purple plants like grapes (wine) and blueberries. These anthocyanins are considered super-antioxidants. So as you might expect, there are studies out there that claim that purple tea leaves contain a higher antioxidant count than other teas but I’ll reserve judgment on that until more research is done. However, there is no denying that tea is good for you, so focus on the beautiful taste of this tea knowing that your health will be the better for it. Oh, and for a bit more magic, add a bit squeeze of lemon (or similar acidic food) to turn the tea liquor bright pink/purple!
- Origin: Nandi Hills, Nandi County, Kenya Africa
- Grower/Teamaster: Jacob & Boaz Katah
- Elevation: 6,700ft
- Harvest Date: Spring 2016
- Cultivar: TRFK 306, a clone derived from a natural genetic mutation to camellia sinensis assamica
- Cultivation: NPK fertilizer twice yearly, no pesticides
- Plucking Standard: Hand-plucked, 2 leaves & a bud
- Processing Notes: Steamed-fired green tea processing
- Nickname: Magic Purple Tea, Kenyan Purple Leaf Tea
- History/Pedigree: Cross-bred and grafted from different cuttings of purple tea bushes over 25 years, TRFK306 was released to farmers in 2011
World Tea Expo in Las Vegas
World Tea Expo is an annual tea industry trade show that I have attended primarily for the educational opportunity that the associated seminars, workshops, and tastings provide. On the tradeshow floor, there are lots of suppliers of tea, teaware, and other tea-related equipment and services. Since tea is a commodity, much of the tea suppliers and tea there is commodity tea; something I’m definitely not interested in for Leaves of Cha. There are a few high-end specialty tea suppliers there, and sometimes the commodity tea vendors will have a little bit of specialty tea. But I don’t really expect to find much for my tea chest. When I do, it’s a nice surprise.
The highlights of the show for me were:
- Tasting a Tea of the United States (TOTUS) award winning tea from the U.S.! The Great Mississippi Tea Company won first place for non-commercial black tea. I got to taste the last of it at the Tealet After-Party with the owner and producer of the tea.
- Will There be Tea in 2050? This talk by tea scientist Nigel Melican was a sobering reminder of the pressure that populations and shifting demographics and climate patterns will put on arable land. The short answer is “yes, there will be tea.” But it will have to change with the times and compete with more important foodstuffs for use of land, which will affect availability and of course cost.
- I attended a wonderful Tea & Cheese Pairing Workshop with chef Robert Wemischner. Yes, tea pairs with cheese in the same way as wine and other foods can. His pairing highlights were Kukicha green with Capriole Sofia cheese, Ti Quan Yin oolong with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon cheese, and a Ceylon Kenilworth black with Jasper Hill Cellars Alpha Tolman cheese. You can find his great food and tea articles on the T Ching blog.
- Tasting and sourcing the Purple Tea mentioned above was a nice surprise
- A tea pairing dinner at Nie Gu restaurant hosted by Tealet, where I got to sit with the producer of the matcha that I will be featuring on Leaves of Cha. This is a rare small-farm, small-batch matcha produced entirely on one farm. Tasting fresh ground matcha from a hand grinder was certainly a treat. Look for matcha soon in the Tea Chest on the Leaves of Cha website.