|"The unique flavors from this new purple variety are even more intriguing than its name – definitely one to try!"|
Purple tea?! As someone that’s tasted hundreds of teas, as soon as I saw this one I knew I needed to add it to the list! Everything about it seemed different. According to Butiki Teas (the only tea retailer I’m aware of that’s selling it in the US) purple tea is a new variety of the camellia sinesis plant created by “grafting and cutting as opposed to seeding” and has been in development in Kenya for the last 25 years. This particular tea is grown on a farm on the Southern slopes of Mt Kenya at 2,036 metersabove sea level.
Upon inspection though, my dry leaves aren’t really purple, they’re almost black with a slight bluish/green hue. And they aren’t really leaves but small broken pieces, similar in style to an Argentinian mate. And call me crazy, but the aroma smells a bit like grape jam?! Is it some strange predisposition because it’s a ‘purple’ tea or is there something else behind that smell? (I discovered later there was…)
Butiki Teas suggests experimenting with the temperature and steeping times. I brew my ½ tsp of leaves per 8oz of water at 160F for three minutes and decide to slowly work my way up from there. In the sunlight, the liquor reminds me of pink lemonade – a bright orange/pinkish color shines through. The liquor itself is very thin but is full of those sweet grape jam notes I smelled earlier. But it’s nicely rounded with no astringency or bitterness and a clean finish. Surprisingly, the wet leaves are bright green.
At 180F for four minutes, my pink lemonade liquor is a bit darker. And the taste has changed – with a bit more astringency and more grassy, vegetal notes than the first. Those sweeter notes have virtually disappeared and even the liquor is fuller, with a velvety smoothness down the back of the throat.
OK what next? I do a final batch for five minutes at boiling. Slightly darker in color, its become a very nicely rounded and full-bodied tea. I’m having a hard time trying to put my finger on the flavor – it’s a bit similar to a white tea. Very subtle honey notes and that trademark velvety smooth mouth feel. And am I tasting those sweet grape notes in my mouth afterwards?
Wow! This tea has taken me on a real taste journey with tastes I associate with green, white and those wonderful black Chinese teas with stone-fruit flavors. It seems depending on how you make it, there’s something here to please everyone. And it never seemed to go bitter, regardless of how long or high my water temp was.
Interestingly, when I look up the antioxidants found in purple tea, I discover that not only are they really good for you but many of them are also found in aronia or choke berries – good for making jams and jelly! Maybe I wasn’t so crazy to taste grape jam in my tea!
The only possible drawback is the ‘dust’ that accumulates at the bottom of the cup even after straining it. But because Butiki Teas describes the leaves as naturally herbicide and pesticide free, I’m not that bothered by it. And because you only need ½ tsp per 8oz steeping, this tea will keep you going for awhile – plenty of time to experiment with all of the wonderful flavors from this tea!
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