Currently, Kenya produces and exports over 96% of the tea as black teas. The tea is sold to the world market in bulk and hence is largely used for blending lower quality teas from other countries. Consequently, it fetches low prices and therefore depressed revenue for tea growers in particular and low foreign exchange for the country in general.
A strategic approach is to diversify and add value to the tea products for the domestic and international markets. In this connection, the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya has pre-released a purple tea variety, TRFK 306/1 for commercial utilization targeting a unique tea product - anthocyanin-rich tea. This clone has been under development for the last 25 years and further works on the composition and antioxidant value of anthocyanins in it are still in progress.
The clone has been pre-released in response to the government’s vision 2030 and Medium-Term Plan 2008-2012 (MTP), targeting new tea products diversification and value addition in order to enhance productivity of teas as well as to boost economic growth in the agricultural sector. Anthocyanins are diverse flavonoids and are soluble in water. They are also powerful antioxidants and have health enhancing properties.
Anthocyanin supplements (proanthocyanins) are widely marketed for their health enhancing properties. Anthocyanins are also widely used as preservatives especially in the food industry. The new tea variety that is rich in anthocyanins will provide an alternative raw material from which these flavonoids can be extracted.
The other different products that can be produced from the purple tea leaf and which the Foundation’s scientists are researching on, include extracted catechins, anthocyanins, anthocyanidinins (which are used as drug supplements, preservatives and other industrial uses), tea polyphenol extracts for pharmacological and industrial uses, manufacture of instant teas, Ready To Drink (RTD) tea, and other fast moving consumer goods such as health care products, foods and confectionaries.
The new variety currently fetches 3 to 4 times more revenue than the black tea.
TRFK recently restructured its operations to move away from Departments, which are administratively oriented to programmes approach which is demand driven. Research at TRFK is currently is being conducted in four thematic areas namely:Crop improvement and management.
The following laboratories offer services:
TRFK’s Laboratory services main objective is to provide reliable, accurate and timely analytical testing services on all issues relating to tea throughout Kenya.