How is tea graded?
Tea grading has not been standardized between major growing countries. Tea grades commonly refer to leaf size and location on the tea bush. Tea grading is primarily used by the estates for segregating various teas during the manufacturing process. This process is not defined or standardized and therefore is not a good indicator of quality teas. Grading terminology also differs when describing green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. Therefore, these terms are briefly discussed in their general uses. Keep in mind that a tea’s grade does not necessarily indicate flavor or quality. Other factors such as origin, soil, rainfall, elevation, the particular “flush” or picking season combined with the harvesting and manufacturing process all lend a hand in providing tea its unique flavor.
D – Dust
The smallest of particles left after sifting. Often used in tea bags to infuse rapidly and make a strong and robust brew.
F – Fanning
Very small, broken leaf, slightly larger than dust.
S – Souchong
The largest leaves located closest to the bottom of the branch. These course leaves are twisted lengthwise and often used for various Chinese smoked teas.
P or PEK – Pekoe
Pekoe grade tea leaves are slightly less coarse and smaller than souchong
OP – Orange Pekoe
Orange Pekoe grades are leaves plucked from near the end of a branch. Besides the buds and flowers, they are youngest and smallest of tea leaves on a branch.
BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe
The leaves in broken grades of orange pekoe tea are reduced in size usually by machine. This allows for more surface area, causing the tea to infuse faster than whole leaf varieties.
FOP – Flowery Orange Pekoe
This orange pekoe grade also includes some “tips” or leaf buds.
FBOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
This grade of tea would refer to broken orange pekoe with the addition of a small portion of “tips.”
GFOP – Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Often referred to flowery orange pekoe with “tips” and flowers that are golden in color.
TGFOP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
A larger ratio of golden tips would be included in this classification of flowery orange pekoe.
FTGFOP – Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Tea falling into this classification are usually a premier estate’s finest teas. Mostly comprised of golden flowers, leaf buds, and the youngest tea leaves.