Production of purple tea gains momentum in Kenya

Njeru Industries Limited Human Resource manager Roseline Njoki at 130 acres land in Maua, Meru County where the company grows purple tea.The company processes and sells purple tea in Japan at a good price.PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA

Kenya Tea Research Institute released the first purple tea seedlings to farmers for commercial production in 2011.

Just like the black tea, the variety, which was released after 25 years of research, matures in three years and if proper crop husbandry is applied, one bush can produce between 1.5 to 3kg per year.

Currently there are over 700,000 small-scale farmers engaged in purple tea production across the country.

Mr Earnest Githinji from Gatugura village in Kabare Ward in Kirinyaga County has 21,000 mature tea bushes.

Githinji was among the first farmers in the county to plant the wonder variety whose seeds, according to researchers, could be a source of better oil than traditionally expensive olive oil.

The farmer says although the variety matures three years after planting, six-year-old bushes have the highest yields.

GAINING POPULARITY

The crop which was released to farmers in 2011, is said to be moderately tolerant to drought, has wide adaptability and is highly tolerant to root-knot nematode.

According to the Kangaita Tea Farm Manager Simon Mwangi, the variety though gaining popularity with the farmers, has been hit by narrow marketing outlets.

A 15-acre farm is the main source of purple tea leaves, which are processed and retailed at the nearby Kangaita Tea Factory.

KTDA’S Corporate Affairs Manager Ndiga Kithae said the product is also available at Sarit Centre in Nairobi and is becoming a popular beverage among Kenyans.

He, however, said the tea variety, being new, requires aggressive marketing strategies so that farmers can reap maximum financial gain.

“If the ongoing research on the purple tea seeds succeed and the outcome proves that the quality of its oil is superior by far to the much sought after olive oil, then purple tea farming will be most lucrative,” he said.

Though the yields of this variety are comparable to the traditional black tea, it can fetch up to $30 (Sh3,000) per kilogramme of the processed product.

The purple tea, which is only made at Kangaita factory, is consumed in Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, China and the US.

A farmer in Meru County, going by the business name Njeru Industries, is also privately processing purple tea.

 

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