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Purple tea becoming a popular beverage among Kenyans

Manager Kangaita Tea Farm Simon Mwangi in one of the purple tea farm managed by the KTDA in Kirinyaga County. Photo by Irungu Mwangi, KNA
Researchers say that purple tea seeds could be a source of oil which will be more valuable than the traditionally expensive Olive Oil. Photo by Irungu Mwangi, KNA
Manager Kangaita Tea Farm Simon Mwangi in one of the purple tea farm managed by the KTDA in Kirinyaga County. Photo by Irungu Mwangi, KNA
Researchers say that purple tea seeds could be a source of oil which will be more valuable than the traditionally expensive Olive Oil. Photo by Irungu Mwangi, KNA

After 25 years of research, Kenya Tea Research Institute released the first seedlings for the purple tea to the farmers for commercial production.
The crop, which was released to farmers in 2011, is said to be moderately tolerant to drought effects, has wide adoptability and highly tolerant to root knot nematode.
Just like the black tea, the variety matures in three years and if proper crop husbandry is applied, one bush could produce between 1.5 to 3 kilograms per year.
Currently, there are over 700, 000 small scale farmers engaged in purple tea production across the country.
One such farmer, Earnest Githinji from Gatugura village in Kabare Ward, Kirinyaga County, has 21,000 mature tea bushes.
Githinji was among the first farmers in the County to plant the wonder variety whose seeds researchers say could be a source of oil, which will be more valuable than the traditionally expensive Olive Oil.
He started off with 10, 000 tea bushes but planted more to reach the 21, 000 mark and is comfortably producing the brand.
The farmer says although the variety matures in three years after planting, bushes which were six years old produced the highest number of kilograms of tea leafs.
Githinji feels that if Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) could allow the small scale growers of the crop establish their cottage industries for processing of the commodity and marketing, purple tea could become a lucrative undertaking.
Manager Kangaita Tea Farm Simon Mwangi said the variety, though gaining popularity with the farmers, has been hit by narrow marketing outlets.
The 15 acre farm is the main source of purple tea leafs which after picking are processed and retailed within the nearby Kangaita tea factory.
KTDA’s Corporate Affairs Manager Ndiga Kithae said the product is also available at the Sarit Center in Nairobi and is becoming a popular beverage amongst Kenyans.
He said the variety still being new,requires aggressive marketing strategies so that the farmers may reap maximum financial gains.
“If the ongoing research on the purple tea seeds succeeds and the outcome proves that the quality of its oil is superior by far to the much sought olive oil, then tea farming will be the most sought venture,” he said.
Though the yields of this variety are comparable to the traditional black tea, it can fetch up to 30 US dollars per kilogram of the processed product the equivalence of Sh3, 000.
The purple tea which is only made at Kangaita factory is consumed in Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, China and the United States of America.
A farmer in Meru County going by the business name Njeru Industries is also engaged in private processing of the purple tea.
He is also a prominent purple tea farmer at Nyambene area of Igembe North Sub-County and has since attracted others in producing the commodity.
Due to the prevailing stiff competition of agricultural products at the World market, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) is now embarking on a radical shift from black tea production to other types including the purple tea.
The shift has also been occasioned by the emergence of new consumers whose taste is different from the old tradition according to processors and dealers of the commodity.
By Irungu Mwangi

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