A group of farmers from Karaini in Kangaita, Kirinyaga Central Sub-County has opted to venture into little known purple tea.
William Mugo with a group of some other farmers have come together and formed a group – Kirinyaga Purple tea cooperative, which so far has dedicated over 30 acres of their farm to purple tea.
As is the case with all new ideas, getting started was not easy as authorities in the tea sector were initially reluctant to grant them the license, a hurdle they finally overcame.
Mugo said they started growing purple tea back in 2014, but it was not until last year when they started having their tea processed thus yielding returns.
He said the eleven out grower farmers collect and deliver their leaves to Gatanga Industries who process and package the tea on their behalf.
“The industry also labels the tea for us and is able to deliver to us a finished product ready for the market,” Mugo said.
He said the factory vehicles collect the tea from the farmers before it is transported to Murang’a, where the processing and every other work is done.
Currently, the group is able to produce 10,000 kilograms of purple tea per week which Mugo says is weighed before it is transported to Murang’a.
“The tea is again weighed before the processing takes place, then, one person has to remain during the processing,” Mugo said
He says the group has future plans of acquiring their small processing machines which will lower the cost of production.
“Currently members have to bear the cost of transport, cost of production, laboratory services, Electricity, all of which goes to Gatanga where the industry is based,” he said.
Mugo says they can deliver more: “Doing 250 to 350 kilos per trip, we make some money but have a shortage of funds to buy from other farmers,” Mugo added.
He says their product is licensed under specialty tea and goes under the name Kipute Gold short form for Kirinyaga purple tea.
Mugo says they chose the industry in Gatanga to do their tea since it uses Chinese technology and makes it possible for them to produce a variety of products from the purple tea.
“According to Jenifer Gatwiri, a member of the group, a kilo of processed purple tea sells at Sh. 2,000, making it much more profitable than traditional tea.
She says the main selling point for purple tea is its health benefits. The plant is rich in Anthocyanin, a strong antioxidant that is crucial in warding off chronic diseases.
But in spite of its many health benefits, Gatwiri says there is difficulty in marketing the herb locally as not many Kenyans know about it.
“Marketing purple tea in the County is a big challenge, but we are educating our people over the benefits accrued from the tea and the results are encouraging,” she said.
Gatwiri said they also sell some of their finished products to customers from Far East countries like China and Japan.
The farmer says they have plans to enlist more farmers and venture into the international market.
She says the tea directorate should help in marketing of the purple tea given that the climatic condition in the country is suitable for growing the shrub.
Not only have the farmers succeeded in setting up a viable purple tea business, but have also paved the way for other farmers to try their hand into this previously unexplored territory.
Already, Gatwiri says more than 100 farmers have embraced purple tea growing and are only waiting to start harvesting and join the group.