Feature: Thriving purple tea farm boosts Kenya's economy-Xinhua

Feature: Thriving purple tea farm boosts Kenya's economy

Source: Xinhua| 2024-05-20 23:17:15|Editor: huaxia

by Naftali Mwaura

NAIROBI, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Nestled in the picturesque countryside of Murang'a County in central Kenya, the Umbui purple tea farm is a stunning sight, with vibrant shoots flourishing.

This 4.4-hectare farm, owned by local entrepreneur Darius Kizito, employs dozens of workers who pluck fresh tea shoots and deliver them to a nearby factory for processing and packaging. Kizito, who has managed the farm for nearly 14 years, proudly shares how the introduction of purple tea has created new revenue streams for local communities, most of whom are subsistence farmers.

"I see a bright future for purple tea in this country. Farmers have realized it is more profitable compared to black tea," Kizito told Xinhua in early May, ahead of International Tea Day on May 21.

During the March-May long rains season, the purple tea harvest tripled, boosting daily wages for the artisanal pluckers, some of whom are migrant laborers from various parts of Kenya. About three miles north of the Umbui farm, workers at Gatanga Industries Tea Factory sort the succulent leaves for drying in a greenhouse before processing them with Chinese-made equipment.

Michael Ngugi, a factory technician, joined Gatanga Industries in 2017 when it commenced operations. He said the decision to process purple tea was driven by growing local demand.

"For the last six years, consumption of purple tea in this locality and countrywide has increased. We have even opened a shop for local consumers," Ngugi said. The partnership with China has been fruitful, with Chinese experts providing training on processing and preparing purple tea to enhance health benefits.

Teresia Nyambura, a processor and packer at Gatanga Industries since 2019, credits Chinese instructors for improving her skills in processing, packing and tasting purple tea, which has allowed her to reach out to community members and encourage them to embrace this value-added tea variety.

Ngugi revealed that most of the purple tea processed and packaged at Gatanga Industries is exported to markets in the United States, Europe and China.

Derived from the Assam tea plant, which has been cultivated in the Kenyan highlands since the early 20th century, purple tea (Camellia sinensis) has a distinct flavor and is rich in antioxidants. Its cultivation has accelerated since 2011, marking a milestone in Kenya's efforts to add value to the commodity and boost its demand both locally and internationally.