What is Orange Pekoe?

Grades of Black Tea

What are Grades of Tea?

The grades of black tea refer to the classification system used to describe the quality and size of the tea leaves, which can significantly influence the flavor, aroma, and overall tea-drinking experience. These grades range from whole leaf teas, such as Orange Pekoe (OP) and Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP), which consist of large, unbroken leaves and young tips that offer a nuanced and refined flavor, to broken leaf teas like Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) that brew quickly and provide a robust taste. Smaller particles, such as fannings and dust, are typically used in tea bags for their quick infusion and strong, brisk flavor.

Higher grades often include more tips, which are young, tender leaf buds that contribute to a smoother, sweeter, and more aromatic tea, reflecting meticulous plucking and processing. Overall, the grading system helps consumers identify the quality and characteristics of black tea, ranging from delicate and complex whole leaves to strong and convenient fannings and dust.

Where does grading come from?

The practice of grading tea has a rich history that dates back to the bustling tea trade between China and the Western world during the 17th and 18th centuries. As tea became a coveted commodity, traders realized the need for a system to assess and classify its quality, ensuring consistency in their dealings.

Initially, the grading process was quite simple – traders would visually inspect the size and appearance of the tea leaves to gauge their quality and set prices accordingly. The British East India Company, a major player in this trade, played a pivotal role in formalizing these grades, establishing uniform standards for the vast quantities of tea they imported.

As the 19th century dawned, tea cultivation expanded to regions like India and Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon). With the advent of mechanical processing and the establishment of large tea plantations, the grading system became more structured and precise. Specific grades such as Orange Pekoe (OP), Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP), and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP), among others, emerged to maintain consistent quality standards.

Today, the grading system remains an integral part of the tea industry, guiding producers, traders, and consumers alike in distinguishing the varying qualities and characteristics of tea. The presence of delicate tips, the size of the leaves, and the processing methods employed continue to play crucial roles in determining a tea's grade and, ultimately, its value.

This time-honored practice not only ensures that tea enthusiasts can enjoy their preferred blend but also serves as a testament to the industry's rich heritage and its commitment to upholding the highest standards of quality.

Grades of Black Tea

Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) is one of the highest grades of black tea, featuring whole leaves with young tips that provide an exceptional quality. Known for its floral aroma and smooth, slightly sweet flavor, this premium tea offers a refined and sophisticated drinking experience.

Orange Pekoe (OP) is a high-grade black tea that consists of whole, unbroken leaves without tips, providing a smooth and consistent flavor. This tea is known for its clear, bright liquor and a delicate, mild taste, making it a popular choice among tea connoisseurs.

Pekoe is a grade of black tea that consists of young, tender leaves, typically the second leaf from the top of the tea plant. Known for its bright color and brisk flavor, Pekoe offers a slightly more robust taste compared to higher grades like Orange Pekoe.

Pekoe Souchong is a grade of black tea consisting of larger, coarser leaves that are picked from the lower parts of the tea plant. Known for its bold and robust flavor, this tea offers a full-bodied and slightly smoky taste, making it distinct from the more delicate higher grades.

Souchong is a grade of black tea made from the larger, older leaves lower down on the tea plant, typically rolled and dried to bring out a distinctive flavor. Known for its strong, smoky, and full-bodied taste, Souchong offers a unique and intense tea experience that is different from the lighter and more delicate higher grades.

Congou is a grade of black tea made from the larger, mature leaves found lower on the tea plant, which are carefully hand-rolled into tight, even shapes. Known for its smooth and mellow flavor, Congou offers a refined and well-balanced taste with a subtle sweetness, making it distinct from the lighter and more delicate higher grades.

Bohea is a grade of black tea made from the larger, older leaves found at the bottom of the tea plant, typically rolled and fermented to enhance its flavor. Known for its mild, slightly smoky, and earthy taste, Bohea offers a smooth and mellow tea experience, making it different from the more robust and intense higher grades.

Black Tea Grades

Black tea grades are classifications that describe the quality and size of the tea leaves, which can affect the flavor, aroma, and overall experience of the tea. The primary grades of black tea include:

Whole Leaf Teas:

Orange Pekoe (OP): Whole leaves without tips. It offers a lighter and more delicate flavor.

Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP): Includes some young tips, providing a more aromatic and floral taste.

Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP): Contains a higher proportion of golden tips, enhancing the aroma and sweetness.

Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP): Even more tips, delivering a rich, nuanced flavor.

Broken Leaf Teas:

Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP): Broken leaves that brew more quickly and produce a stronger flavor.

Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP): Broken leaves with some tips, offering a balanced strong and aromatic flavor.

Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (GBOP): Broken leaves with golden tips, providing a richer taste.

Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (TGBOP): Highest quality broken leaves with a good amount of tips, delivering a robust and nuanced flavor.

Fannings (F): Small tea particles often used in mass-produced tea bags, brewing quickly and providing a strong, brisk flavor.

Dust (D): Very fine particles, also used in mass-produced tea bags, producing a very strong and brisk cup of tea, ideal for quick brewing.

What is the Highest Grade and Why is it Better than the Others?

Among the world of premium teas, the Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP) grade stands out as a true connoisseur's delight. What sets this tea apart is its generous sprinkling of golden tips – the delicate, young leaf buds plucked from the tea plant itself.

These golden tips are akin to nature's treasure trove, brimming with essential oils that impart a depth of flavor and aroma unmatched by their older leaf counterparts. As the tea steeps, these precious tips unfurl, releasing a bouquet of complex and nuanced notes that dance across the palate. From subtle hints of sweetness to delightful floral undertones, each sip promises a sensory experience that elevates the art of tea-drinking to new heights.

But it's not just the flavor that makes TGFOP teas so special. These golden tips also lend a visual allure, adorning the tea leaves with a radiant hue that signals its premium quality to the discerning eye.

The journey to attaining TGFOP status begins with a labor of love – the meticulous hand-picking of only the finest and youngest leaves and buds from the tea plant. This careful selection process ensures that each batch contains an abundance of those coveted golden tips, a rarity that makes TGFOP teas all the more precious.

Indeed, it is this combination of exceptional flavor, captivating aroma, and visual splendor, coupled with the limited availability of these sought-after tips, that has earned TGFOP teas a revered place among tea connoisseurs worldwide. For those who appreciate the finer things in life, this grade represents the pinnacle of tea excellence, a true indulgence for the senses.

What are "Tips"?

The amount of tips in black tea grades is an indicator of the tea's quality and flavor profile. Tips are the young, tender leaf buds that are often golden or silver in color and are highly prized for their delicate flavor and aroma.

Full Leaf Tea Company's Organic Assam

Our Organic Assam tea offers a truly exceptional tea drinking experience. Sourced directly from the renowned Assam region of North-Eastern India and being TGFOP, this premium black tea exemplifies the bold, distinctive flavors for which Assam teas are celebrated. The rich, malty taste profile coupled with the golden-tipped leaves results in a robust, full-bodied cup with a smooth, satisfying finish.

In addition to its superior flavor, Organic Assam tea provides an invigorating caffeine level that supports improved mental alertness throughout the day. This high-quality tea also offers numerous potential health benefits, including antioxidant properties that may promote heart health. Discerning tea lovers can savor this authentic Assam tea knowing it is USDA certified organic, vegan, non-GMO, and crafted with a commitment to wellness and environmental sustainability.