I wrote a post recently about some really interesting yellow teas kindly sent to me by What-Cha which I throughly enjoyed. I was also sent some purple varietal teas at the same time. I really admire what What-Cha are doing as a company because it means that interesting high quality teas are more accessible to tea drinkers like me who really want to experience something new.
About Purple Tea and Kenyan Tea
Purple tea is not a type of tea in it’s own right, but a rare mutation of the tea plant. It’s the presence of a natural chemical called Anthocyanin which makes the leaves purple rather than green. Purple tea can be processed as puerh (if it is Chinese), black, green, white or oolong tea. The only purple varietal tea I had tried previously was a puerh from Yunnan, China. Most tea in Kenya is CTC (crush, tear, curl) processed to be put into tea bags, but there is single origin high quality tea being produced in Kenya too. Kenya only started producing purple teas under five years ago in the Mount Kenya region so I was really interested to try some.
Kenyan Purple Varietal Oolong (Hand Rolled)
Upon opening the packet I found the fruity smell really enticing! It’s a sweet smell that is reminiscent of plums but it has a spicy edge too. It automatically reminded me of a Darjeeling Topaz oolong that I have enjoyed in the past. I brewed the tea at 80c for 2 minutes and I found the smell to be less sweet when the tea was brewed. The tea tasted very fruity and sweet but with a slight astringency to it. This means that it can be quite drying. This oolong is lovely and rich meaning that it can be reinfused many times. I really enjoyed the tea but had to space out the infusions due to the astringency.
Kenyan Green Purple Varietal Tea (Steamed)
The smell of this tea is heavenly upon opening the packet. It’s got the sweet plum smell that seems to be common of Kenyan purple varietal teas but, when mixed with the smell of a steamed green tea, it’s amazing! Steamed green tea has a sweet yet vegetal smell which is really apparent in this tea. Although I knew that purple varietal tea leaves would actually be purple it did surprise me to see the dry leaf. I brewed the tea at 80c for 2 minutes and decided upon a glass tea pot so I could appreciate the purple colour developing.
The tea does have the same fruity notes as the oolong but this is combined with the vegetal taste of a steamed green tea. This tea really does have depth of flavour and I really enjoyed exploring it through a number of infusions.
Kenyan Purple Varietal Silver Needle
Silver Needle tea is a white tea originally from the Fujian Provence of China. It’s name is based on the appearance of the dry processed leaf and it’s generally an expensive tea as only young leaf buds are used. The dry leaves of this Kenyan Silver Needle look very similar to those of a Chinese Silver Needle. They look like little furry needles but are darker in colour due to their mutation. Upon opening the packet the tea smelt fruity with a sugary sweetness to it. I brewed it at 80c and tried infusions at 2, 3 and 4 minutes. I experimented a bit with this tea as What-Cha originally gave the advice to brew it at 80c for 2-3 minutes but have updated it to 6-8 minutes with double the amount of leaves. As white teas are the least processed tea type they are generally very subtle in flavour so this change in the advice given is designed to draw more flavour from the leaves. The delicate nature of white tea is what I enjoy about it so personally I would not take the infusion further than 4 minutes. The tea has a very delicate fruity flavour, with a nice sweetness to it, which reminded me of a lightly spiced plum jam. White teas are perfect for cleansing the palate as they are too delicate to drink with food. The fruity and sweet nature of this particular white tea means that I found it better after food rather than before. I have tried a Kenyan Silver Needle tea before (under a different name) and from what I can remember I found this version quite similar. I believe the purple mutation adds the spicy notes as this is not something I have associated with any other Silver Needle teas I’ve tried.
I would highly recommend these teas to those looking to try rarer teas and those looking to explore different tea regions. I am definitely planning to explore more African oolong, green and white teas in the future!