Grades Of Tea
All tea is graded according to leaf size. One of the most common terms is ‘Orange Pekoe’, and is often mistaken for a type of tea. In actual fact it is a term that denotes a particular size of Black Leaf Tea.
As you become more aware of Tea you will begin to come across these terms, they are usually denoted by a series of letters after the name such of the tea as Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope TGFOP, or given it’s full title Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, but that’s a bit long!
So, grading is not related to it’s quality, that’s down to the climate, location and the type of processing. It is the leaf size that plays an important role in influencing the overall essence of a cup. Drinking whole leaf tea allows you to experience the wonderful range of flavours each with it’s own aroma and colour.
White Tea, Green Tea and Oolong Tea are generally not graded like most Black Tea’s.
Here are the most common grades for black tea leaves.
- F.O.P. Flowery Orange Pekoe - Refers to high quality whole leaf tea made from the first two leaves and bud of the shoot. India produces large amounts of this grade.
- G.F.O.P. Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - The golden refers to the colourful tips at the end of the top bud.
- T.G.F.O.P. Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - FOP with larger amount of tips
- F.T.G.F.O.P Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - An even higher quality with more tips than FOP
- O.P. Orange Pekoe: Refers to a high quality thin, wiry leaf rolled more tightly than F.O.P. Picked later in the year than F.O.P..
- S. Souchong - A twisted leaf picked from the bottom of the tea bush. China produces this grade used in their smokey teas.
Broken leaf teas produce a darker cup and infuse faster than whole leaf teas.
- P. Pekoe - A wiry, large broken leaf usually without golden tips. Sri Lanka produces large amounts of Pekoe.
- B.O.P. Broken Orange Pekoe - A small, flat broken leaf with medium body.
Other broken leaf grades exist including F.B.O.P (flowery broken orange pekoe), G.B.O.P (golden broken orange pekoe) and F.G.B.O.P (flowery golden broken orange pekoe).
Fanning & Dust
Leaf particles too small to be classified as broken leaf fall into two categories, fanning and dust. Many grades exist within each.
- F. Fannings - Crushed leaf particles smaller than B.O.P. Infuses liquor quickly
- D. Dust - Smallest grade used for mass-marketed tea bags.