TEA GRADING

Grading tea is complicated and is done differently in different countries. Still, all teas fall into four broad categories: Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings and Dust. Black tea is subject to the most extensive grading system. The first grade of a black tea is called OP or Orange Pekoe (pronounced as peek-oh.) Pekoe is derived from the Chinese word for white hair, which refers to the silvery down on new leaves and buds. One explanation for the ‘Orange’ half of the name is that the Chinese sometimes used to flavor these leaves with Orange blossoms. Another suggests that it is a remaining reference to the Netherlands House of Orange, a powerful entity in the early days of tea trading. Today, ‘Orange Pekoe’ describes leaves, specifically the best tender leaves plucked from tips of the plant’s young shoots. These prized leaves get graded as follows during the manufacturing process.

WHOLE LEAF

SFTGFOP: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

This grade is primarily used to grade Darjeeling teas with a large proportion of leaves having golden tips on new leaf buds- a guarantee of quality.

FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Another grade primarily used to grade Indian black teas consisting of exceptional quality OP with lots of tips.

TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Golden refers to the buds, which have a lighter color than other leaves.

GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

FOP with a certain amount of golden tips.

OP: Orange Pekoe

Long, pointed leaves that are harvested when the terminal buds open into leaf. Rarely contains “tips.”

FP: Flowery Pekoe

Shorter, coarser leaves. The next leaves down from OP.

PS: Pekoe Souchong

Pekoe leaf further broken down is Pekoe Souchong.

Souchong

Shorter and tightly rolled leaf style (for Indian Souchong). But when used for grading Chinese teas this refers to large leaves.

Pouchong

A variety of tea that is very rare. The leaf is extra large and when brewed the infused leaf extends to at least an inch to an inch and a half in length.

BROKEN LEAF TEA

GFBOP: Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

GBOP: Golden  Broken Orange Pekoe

TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe

FANNINGS

BOPF: Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings

Leaf size that is smaller than BOP is graded as fannings. This grade is primarily used in tea bags since it is small and steeps very quickly.

The mentioned grades are the ones that are widely used. A grade of tea only describes the leaf style of that particular tea and not the quality. Quality of a tea can only be decided after tasting it.

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