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Why beverage is taking over market, one cup at a time

Purple tea is a medicinal tea plant. It is taken without sugar and milk. Lemon is added to enhance flavour and colour. The tea’s anthocyanins are very effective against all types of cancers when taken along with medication. It also reduces susceptibility to cancer by strengthening the antioxidant capacity of body cells.

As part of a long-term project to diversify the industry that accounts for over a quarter of the country’s export earnings and directly or indirectly employs four million Kenyans, the State-run Tea Research Institute spent 25 years developing the purple tea variety, officially named TRFK 306.

Along with carrying those anthocyanin pigments, the new hybrid is high-yielding, contains properties to make it resistant to drought, frost, and certain natural pests, and has large leaves making hand-plucking easy, according to the Tea Research Institute.

In July 2011, it was released for commercial production. A number of scientific studies done inside and outside Kenya on purple tea suggest that its anthocyanins may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.  “Anthocyanins are good antioxidants,” says Stephen  Mbuthia, a biochemist at Egerton University, Kenya’s premier agricultural public university.

Many studies have found that purple tea has a greater degree of antioxidant activity than either green or black tea. Research shows that purple tea has a free-radical scavenging rate of 51 per cent compared with 34.3 per cent for green tea.

Chronic diseases

And the more free radicals that antioxidants attack in your body, the less likely you are to get chronic diseases. Though the farming of the purple tea has recorded low intake, from 2013, the area under tea production increased from 490,000 acres to 501,000 acres.

Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation says the tea is good for those people with high blood pressure, cancer and other lifestyle diseases. The herbal purple tea is also said to lower formation of fibroids in women, blood sugar and promote weight loss.

Purple tea also contains a unique and more powerful polyphenol than green or black teas (16.5 per cent, compared to 10.1 per cent for black tea and 9.1 per cent for green tea), according to researchers.

Polyphenols are chemicals found in foods that help to prevent the damage of free radicals in the body — unstable molecules that can damage the arteries and cause numerous health problems.

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