Grades Of Tea />

Grades Of Tea

Grades Of Tea

By:International Tea Importers - 22/09/2021

In the world of tea there are a variety of acronyms and names regarding grades of tea. These can range from Black tea to Darjeeling flushes, as well as to Chinese teas and Japanese teas. Before we jump in, one of the most common misconceptions about tea is that green tea, black tea, oolong, and white tea all derive from different plants. Think again, these four wonderful teas come from the same plant, named Camellia Sinensis. It's what is done to the leaves after they have been picked that makes them unique and different in their own ways. The way these teas are processed changes how they can be grouped into their respective Tea Gradings.
The most common and the one most widely recognized is the British grading system named “Orange Pekoe”. This system can be traced back to the Dutch East India Company when they were expanding their hold on the growing tea trade. This system is most commonly used when grading Black teas, but can also be used for Green tea and teas from other regions. The grading system focuses on the size of the tea leaf, the appearance, and whether or not the tea leaf is broken or whole. The higher the grade of tea then the higher it is harvested from the tea shrub, usually from the very top bud. The lower the grade of the tea then the lower it is harvested from the plant, making the leaves larger in size. The grading system is as follows:
1.Orange Pekoe (OP)-Wiry and large leaves, usually without golden tips.
2.Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP)-High quality whole leaf tea made from the first two leaves and the bud of the tea plant.
3.Golden (GFOP)-High quality whole leaf tea made from the first two leaves and the bud of the tea plant.
4.Tippy (TGFOP)-All of the buds have golden tips.
5.Special (SFTGFOP)-This can indicate additional leaf attributes that would make it a more prized tea. Special, can also be dictated through using numbers such as FTGFOP-1.
6.Broken (B)-This refers to the torn or broken pieces of tea leaves that can be still recognized as tea leaves. It is usually indicated between Flowery or Golden and Orange, FBOP and GBOP.
7.Fannings (F)-These are tea leaves that are finely broken and mainly used for tea bags.This identification is normally indicated at the end of the grades, FOPF and GOF.
8.Dust (D)-Extremely small tea particles that appear like dust and are strictly only used in tea bag production. It is also normally indicated at the end of the grades, OPD and BOPD.

A second industry tea grade would be the term of a “Flush”, which relates to Darjeeling teas. A Flush correlates to the time of the year the tea is harvested. Darjeeling tea comes from the Darjeeling mountain region of India, and this style of tea is harvested throughout the year. Each season’s harvest has a different flavor profile, such as an early spring First Flush which has a light aroma and subtle flavor. While a flush harvested later in the season, you might find the tea has a fuller bodied flavor profile.
Chinese teas are unique in their own way, as they don’t fall under one specific tea grading scale. Due to the size of China, teas from each growing region can be harvested or grown in distinct ways. These techniques can be traced back thousands of years and comparing two different teas, from two different regions is like comparing apples to oranges. Chinese teas tend to have numbers assigned to them to distinguish their quality, with 5 being the lowest grade and 1 being the highest. Alongside the number system there are a few terms that can be applied to a Chinese tea, they are as follows:
1.Congou (“Gongfu”)-This is a tea made with careful skill that will produce thin, tight strips that will not break the tea leaves.
2.Mao Feng-In Chinese this means Fur Peak, the tea leaves are slightly twisted and can sometimes be known for a smoother, distinctive flavor profile.
3.Xin Ya-This is a young, early tea bud that is said to be less bitter than the rest.
4.Hao Ya-A tea known for the finest of tea buds, it can be known to contain a high amount of silver tips and be of the highest grade.

To close out our Tea Grading blog we will end with Japanese teas. In Japan tea growing is limited to a few particular regions, which lends itself to a more unique tea grading system. The Japanese system of grading is based on when the plant was harvested and what parts of the tea plant were used.
1.Matcha-The leaves of the tea plant are shaded prior to picking, they are hand-picked and ground into a fine powder. It is primarily used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, making a high end matcha an expensive yet luxurious treat.
2.Gyokuro-This tea is grown under full shade, producing a tea rich in amino acids (Theanine) and caffeine. Another benefit of growing in the shade is the reduction of bitterness (catechins), which produces a rich, buttery and sweet umami flavor profile when brewed.
3.Sencha-One of Japan’s most popular teas, this is a tea grown directly in sunlight. It produces a delicate flavor with a slight astringency.
4.Genmaicha-This particular tea has a signature nutty, roasted flavor. It contains popped corn, toasted rice kernels with the refreshing taste of green tea.
5.Hojicha-A combination of roasted bancha and kukicha, creates a brown tea containing
leaves and stems. This produces a savory flavor with a low caffeine content.
6.Bancha-Harvested later in the season, this can be used as an everyday green tea. It has a soft aroma and mild astringency.

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