Tea enthusiasts are usually pretty familiar with the basic types of tea. The two most common types of teas are green and black, but as you expand your interest in tea, you may come across white, oolong, yellow, or even the different varieties of dark tea. It might come as a surprise, then, to hear that there is such a thing as “purple tea.” In today’s post, we’re here to help you understand what makes this kind of tea so interesting.
Purple tea is a little hard to classify, and that might have to do with the fact that tea itself can be difficult to classify. Today, novice tea drinkers tend to assume that a tea can be identified by the color of its leaves. After all, white tea leaves tend to be white, green tea leaves green, and black tea leaves black — except when they’re not. Sometimes white tea leaves can look very green and black tea leaves can look very gold. So judging tea based on how the leaves look proves to not be very reliable.
Traditionally, tea was identified based on the color of the infusion. This is why black tea is still regarded as red tea in the east. This, too, is not very reliable though. Some green teas can produce a very gold-colored infusion, and oolong tea infusions tend to produce all sorts of different colors. Perhaps this is why experts tend to identify tea based on the method used to craft the tea. So far, this method has proven to be far more reliable than the other two. We know, for example, that dark tea goes through a fermentation stage that the other types of tea do not, and that white tea is laid out to naturally dry, or air dry.
So where does purple tea fit into all of this tea classification?
This is where things get complicated. If we are using identification by looking at the leaves or the infusion, we will find that there is indeed a purple quality present in the leaves and infusion of purple teas. It is plainly distinct from other types of tea. However, when it is processed, it can be crafted like any other tea (i.e. withered, pan-fried, fully oxidized, etc.). So far, two most popular forms of purple tea are those that have been crafted like a green tea and those that have been crafted like a puerh tea.
This makes purple tea quite unique then. It sure looks different, but it isn’t made any differently than any other type of tea. This is why you might see additional qualifications when purple tea is sold, such as purple green tea, purple puerh tea, or purple black tea.
What, then, is responsible for making purple tea, well, purple?
It turns out that the leaves of purple tea have unusually high amounts of a naturally-occurring pigment known as anthocyanin. This pigment is what gives so many of the foods we eat their bluish / purplish color, from black rice and purple cauliflower to even everyday items like blackberries and raspberries. Due to the amount in purple tea, everything from the appearance of the leaves to the color of the infusion is affected by this pigment, imparting a soothing purple hue to it.
It is likely that a genetic mutation of some kind is how this high anthocyanin content originated, but once that occurs, farmers are able to carefully ensure that it occurs more often through various growing efforts. And that is precisely what has happened in the case of the purple tea boom. Because of its beauty, unique flavor, and beneficial antioxidant profile, purple tea started attracting tea drinkers everywhere since they had never had anything quite like it. It even tends to have lower levels of caffeine than green or black teas, which makes it an especially nice option for people with caffeine sensitivities.
Fortunately, due to its fun, misfit nature among tea types as well as its outstanding and intriguing flavor, we are proud to start offering a purple tea at MeiMei Fine Teas, Long Yuan Purple Buds Green Tea! If you’re looking for something truly different, then you will definitely want to add this gem to your tasting list to experience for yourself what makes purple tea so wonderful.