When, in 2015, the Tocklai Tea Research Institute revealed that purple tea — a special variety Kenyan brew made from purple-hued tea leaves — actually originated in Assam, there was a flurry of excitement. Could the exotic tea potentially return to its native market — where it belongs? However, it is only after four years that the special tea is hitting the domestic market. On Wednesday, 1.25kg of purple tea — cultivated in the Donyi Polo tea estate of Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang District — was sold to Guwahati-based Dugar Consumer Products Pvt Ltd for Rs 24,501 at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre in a deal commissioned by Contemporary Brokers Pvt Ltd (CBPL). “This was beyond my expectation — I thought it will be about Rs 15,000,” says Manoj Kumar of the Donyi Polo tea estate.
However, keeping its properties in mind, the high price the tea fetched shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The delectable colour aside, the tea is rich in Anthocyanin, a flavonoid robust with antioxidants, and thus, health benefits. In fact, it is the Anthocyanin that lends the tea leaf its distinct colour, too. “It is good for the heart, it fights cancer,” says Kumar. He and his colleague, Pankai Wangtan, from the Donyi Polo tea estate began exploring the wilds of Arunachal Pradesh in 2013, in search for this special tea. Apart from Assam, they had heard that the leaf also grew in Arunachal Pradesh. “Finally we were fortunate enough to find purple tea growing wild in the East Siang district,” says Kumar.
The Donyi Polo tea estate — located about 250 km from state capital Itanagar — began in 1985. Earlier this year, it created a record when it sold its special Golden Needle tea for a whopping Rs 40,000 at a pan-India auction. The same estate has also sold other special variety teas such as Silver Needle tea, yellow tea, and Oolong tea.
To make this tea, the management followed the ‘green tea process’ — “That basically means it’s a process devoid of oxidation so as to retain the colour of the leaves,” says Kumar. The tea will now be sold in Gujarat — at Dugar Consumer Products’ speciality tea boutique in Ahmedabad called Techa, and at Vibrant Gujarat, a government-organised global summit slated for January 2019.
“We have a number of speciality teas: Moondrop tea (picked during a full moon day) from Darjeeling, Monkey Picked tea (picked by monkeys from the highest peaks of Africa) in our boutique. The purple tea will be available in our boutique from November 5,” says Rishabh Dugar, Director, Dugar Consumer Pvt Ltd.
The tea is best had with a drop of lemon (which makes the beverage reddish) and some honey. “We are happy that we helped get back something which was lost,” says Kumar.