Tea Grades fall into the following broad categories: Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings and Dust. Black tea is subject to the most extensive grading system. The first grade of a black tea is called OP or Orange Pekoe (pronounced as peek-oh.) Pekoe comes from the Chinese word for white hair. This references the silvery down on new leaves and buds. The ‘Orange’ half of the name is that the Chinese used to flavor these leaves with Orange blossoms. Another is a reference to the Netherlands House of Orange, a powerful entity in the early days of tea trading. Currently, ‘Orange Pekoe’ describes leaves, specifically the best tender leaves plucked from tips of the plant’s young shoots. Tea leaves get graded as follows during the manufacturing process.
SFTGFOP: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
This grade is primarily used to grade Darjeeling teas with a large proportion of leaves having golden tips on new leaf buds- a guarantee of quality.
FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Another grade primarily used to grade Indian black teas consisting of exceptional quality OP 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
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, coarser leaves. The next leaves down from OP.
PS: Pekoe Souchong
Pekoe leaf further broken down is Pekoe Souchong.
Shorter and tightly rolled leaf style (for Indian Souchong). But when used for grading Chinese teas this refers to large leaves.
A variety of tea that is very rare. The leaf is extra large and when brewed the infused leaf extends to at least an inch to an inch and a half in length.
BROKEN LEAF TEA
GFBOP: Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOP: Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe
BOPF: Broken Orange Pekoe 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.
A grade of tea only describes the leaf style of that particular tea and not the quality. Quality of a tea can only be decided after tasting it.