Purple tea is not one of the six tea types (white, green, yellow, red, wulong, dark). These are the result of different processing methods. Purple tea, on the other hand, is a quality of the tea leaves themselves. In this post, you will learn more about its causes, and how it influences a tea’s taste.
Variation of the tea plants
Purple tea leaves are a particularity more or less present in some tea plants. This is especially true for the big leaves variety tea plants, used for making Pu’er Tea. High levels of anthocyanin, a component of tea polyphenols and a natural pigment, are the cause for the purple colour of the leaves.
The result of a variation of the tea plants, the purple colour is also influenced by climatic conditions: Warm temperatures and a lot of sunshine make the leaves even more purple. On some tea mountains, there are almost no tea plants with purple leaves, while they are common on others.
Only the younger leaves, those used for making tea, are purple. The older, fully grown leaves usually return to green. This is not true for plantation tea plants that have been specifically selected through breeding for their purple colour. This is why it is sometimes distinguished between purple buds (紫芽) and purple tea (紫茶). After they have been sun-dried, the purple tea leaves become a brownish colour.
Influence on taste & production process
Because of anthocyanin’s high anti-oxidation properties, the pile-fermentation process for making ripened Pu’er Tea with purple tea leaves lasts longer than with green leaves. Ripened Pu’er Tea made with purple leaves tends to be sweeter in taste.
Raw Pu’er Tea made with purple leaves tends to be stronger in taste and fragrance and to have fruity notes. Our 2009 Mengsong Ancient Trees is a good example of a raw Pu’er Tea with some purplish leaves.
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