Wednesday, June 14, 2017

JusTea Purple Leaf Tea


Country of Origin: Kenya
Leaf Appearance: dark, twisted
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: stainless steel infuser basket
Liquor: pale plum

It's been several years since the last time I shared something from JusTea here on the blog. For those of you that aren't familiar, they are a Vancouver-based company that has sought to bring about much-needed change to the tea industry in Kenya. Farmers make very little per day, largely because the leaves are sold to corporate processing plants. JusTea works to build cooperative processing centers, allowing smallholders to process specialty teas themselves.

Purple tea seems to be getting more and more press these days. Although it is often touted for its antioxidant content, it's important to keep in mind that purple tea is a color variant and not actually a distinct category of tea. A genetic mutation can cause tea plants to have higher levels of anthocyanin, giving the leaves an unusual purple appearance. It is the same antioxidant that gives blueberries their deep blue hue and brings about the brilliant colors of fall foliage. Harvested leaves can be made into any type of tea depending on how they are processed.

The color of the liquor was a sort of hazy plum. Adding a bit of lemon juice to purple tea will really intensify the unique appearance. At first, the taste was fairly light with subtle floral and fruity notes. Although mellow in flavor it quickly became uncomfortably astringent. Even though it had that sharpness the overall effect was a bit flat. I'm generally pretty confident in my ability to evaluate tea but I couldn't help but wonder, is it just me? +Charissa Gascho at Oolong Owl published her review last week and seemed to have a similar experience. Pushing up the water temperature and brew time did seem to help by rounding out the flavor.

The leaves appeared to have some oxidation so they definitely weren't processed as a true green tea nor were they fully oxidized like a black tea. I think that is the bulk of the issue here. This tea doesn't know what kind it is and as a result, neither does the drinker. Writing a review for a tea that I wasn't wowed by can really difficult. At times, I've even been accused of only giving good reviews. The truth is that if I absolutely hate something I do not write about it at all. Life is too short to dwell on bad tea. However, I think there is real potential here. Making tea is not a skill that can be learned quickly. The quality will improve over time as the specialty tea industry grows in Kenya. I can't wait to see where they go in the future!

Purple Leaf Tea sample provided for review by JusTea.

Purple Tea - before lemon juice is added

Purple Tea - after lemon juice has been  added



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