The Grades of Tea

Tasting grades of tea

Differentiation According to Leaf Sizes

Generally it is differentiated between leaf teas and broken teas. The small-leafed broken teas, which are cut during the repeated rolling, are naturally very high yielding. The names of the grades of tea are often very imaginative and vary even from plantation to plantation. They are always an expression referring to the leaf size and optic and only to a lesser extent do they address the taste (e.g. flowery), never, though, can they inform about the general quality of the tea. The quality judgement of the teas offered is always made during the tasting.

Below the most important grades for:

Leaf Tea

1. Flowery Orange Pekoe = FOP
In Darjeeling also Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe = GFOP and Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe = TGFOP. This refers to a thin, wiry leaf with tips. Tips are the golden or silver-coloured, visible leaf tips (buds), which contain less tannin and, hence, do not darken during the fermentation. They indicate that young tealeaves were used; however this is not necessarily a determinant of exceptional quality.

2. Orange Pekoe = OP
A long, wiry leaf, larger than the FOP. The meaning of the term is unknown. Orange refers to the Dutch “Oranje”, which means “royal”.

3. Pekoe = P and Flowery Pekoe = FP
This leaf is shorter and larger than the Orange Pekoe, often also more open and not as finely rolled. Ceylon “low-grown” Pekoes have a ball-shaped leaf. Pekoes are stronger in the infusion than the Orange Pekoe, because the latter contains more leaf ribs and less “flesh”.

Broken Tea

1a. Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe = FBOP
This grade refers to the larger and very aromatic qualities of the small-leafed teas. A well-structured, well-rolled leaf with many tips, which yield an attractive appearance.

1b. Golden Broken Orange Pekoe = GBOP
A very fine and strong tea, especially with respect to Assam.

2a. Broken Orange Pekoe = BOP
A well-structured leaf, which has fewer, tips than the FBOP, but is stronger and less flowery.

2b. Broken Orange Pekoe 1 = BOP 1
On some plantations in India, this is the explanation for the FBOP, in Ceylon it is, however, a “semi-leaf tea”, a grade, which is between the OP and the BOP.

3. Broken Pekoe =BP
With respect to the CTC method, BP is a grade, which yields a very strong cup.

Fannings and Dust

The smallest parts of the leaf, without the stem of ribs, which are collected during the sieving. Fannings and Dust are high yielding, strong, colour the cup quickly and, hence, are preferred for use in tea bags.

Explanation of the abbreviations, considering some examples:

SFTGFOP – S (Super) F (Finest) T (Tippy) G (Golden) F (Flowery) O (Orange) P (Pekoe)- large leaf

FP – F (Flowery) P (Pekoe) – small leaf

GFBOP – G (Golden) (Flowery) B (Broken) O (Orange) P (Pekoe) – fine broken

BOPF – B (Broken) O (Orange) P (Pekoe) F (Fannings) – fannings

CTC – C (Crushing) (Tearing) C (Curling) – round leaf