Tea Grading

Grading tea is very complicated and is done differently from country to country. Among these gradings all teas fall into four main categories: Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings, and Dust. Out of all the teas, black teas are subject to the most extensive grading system. The first grade of black tea is OP or Orange Pekoe (pronounced peek-oh). The term Pekoe derives from the Chinese word for white hair. The new leaves and buds on Pekoe are like white hairs with a silvery down. One of the explanations for the "Orange" part of the name is that the Chinese used to flavor these Pekoe leaves with Orange blossoms. Another explanation is that it is in reference to the House of Orange in the Netherlands, which was a powerful entity in the early days of tea trading. In modern usage "Orange Pekoe" describes the best tender tea leaves plucked from tips of the tea plant's young shoots. The grading of these leaves are as follows:


WHOLE LEAF

SFTGFOP

Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

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


FTGFOP

Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Another grade generally used to grade Indian black teas consisting of exceptional quality Orange Pekoe 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

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 and coarser leaves. The next leaves down from Orange Pekoe (OP).


PS

Pekoe Souchong


Pekoe leaf further broken down is known as Pekoe Souchong (PS).


Souchong

When grading Indian Souchong this refers to shorter and tightly rolled leaf style. When used for grading Chinese teas this refers to large leaves.


Pouchong

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


BROKEN LEAF TEA

Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe - GFBOP
Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe - FBOP
Golden Broken Orange Pekoe - GBOP
Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe - TGBOP
Broken Orange Pekoe - BOP


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.

Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings - BOPF


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