The tea grading system differs from country to country. The grading system that is most popularly used has its origins in India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. They are applicable to green teas and black teas. Every type of tea leaf has its own significance. For instance, the whole leaves are known to impart more aromatic flavors. The aroma is stronger when the leaves also consist of buds and tips. The broken leaves and fannings, on the other hand, impart strength to the brew. As a result, the article will show you the basics about black tea grades.
How has black tea commonly been graded?
Black teas are produced by subjecting the freshly plucked leaves of Camellia sinensis to a process of withering, rolling, and drying. This processing oxidizes the leaf and allows many unique aroma and flavor elements to form. Black teas can be malty, floral, biscuity, smoky, brisk, fragrant, and full-bodied. The robustness of black tea lends itself to the addition of sugar, honey, lemon, cream, and milk. While black teas have more caffeine than green or white teas, they still have less than you would get in a cup of coffee.
Tea grading is based on the size of the leaf and the types of leaves included in the tea. Though leaf size is an important quality factor, it is not, by itself, a guarantee of quality. There are typically 4 main grades, based on flush, leaf size, and method of processing. They are Orange Pekoe (OP), Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP), fannings, and dustings.
What is the major classification of black tea into grades?
The major classification of tea into grades are as — Whole leaf, Broken leaf, Fannings and Dust and then there are further classifications within them. The various abbreviations are as follows:
W — Whole
F — Flowery/Fine/Fannings
G — Golden
O — Orange
T — Tippy
B — Broken
P — Pekoe
S — Souchong
Each abbreviation word has its own significance and meaning. For instance, Flowery means that the leaves have buds, Pekoe means the leaves are whole, Tippy means leaves that are dense in tips, Golden refers to the tea leaves that contain tips as well, and Fine just refers to an even more superior quality of the same tea. Flowery consists of large leaves that are plucked in the second or third flush with an abundance of tips. Golden Flowery includes very young tips or buds (that are usually golden in color) that were picked early in the season.
These abbreviations when put together refer to the various kinds of tea. For instance, OP (Orange Pekoe) refers to the whole leaves, FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe) refers to long whole leaves with buds and similarly, FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) is one of the finest grades of pekoe tea and interestingly the abbreviation also translates into Far Too Good For Ordinary People. Similarly, the broken pekoe also exists as various tea grades like GBOP (Golden Broken Orange Pekoe), TGBOP (Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe), and so on.
What are the other tea gradings?
Pekoe, which is the highest grade of tea, is also classified further into other tea grades. The further classification is dependent on how many adjacent young leaves were picked. There might be one, two or none of the adjacent leaves picked. The top-most quality of tea grade is the one that has only the leaf buds that are picked by the fingertips.
Orange Pekoe consists of full leaves, with no tips or buds. Each of the four types can also be designated flowery, tippy, or golden. Orange Pekoe generally refers to medium-grade, whole leaf black tea (consisting of the upper two leaves and bud of the plant)
The “broken pekoe” tea grades are a reference to the crushed form of tea that is used in teabags. These are the lower grades as they consist of fannings and dust that are sometimes residues of the crushing process.
Depending on different needs, consumers will choose tea products according to different grades. Especially our company – Vihaba specializes in providing diverse black tea products for customers to choose from. We are always proud to be one of the leading companies in exporting Vietnamese tea.
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Whole leaf tea
Whole leaf tea is not broken or torn during production. However, the size of the leaves depends on plucking and processing.
FP — Flowery Pekoe
- FTGFOP — Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. This is the highest quality of tea grade that exists
- TGFOP — Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. This is the main grade of Assam and Darjeeling tea and contains the highest proportion of tips
- TGFOP1 — Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Grade One
- GFOP — Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. It is not that popular in Assam and Darjeeling and has higher proportions of tips than FOP
- FOP — Flowery Orange Pekoe, it is high-quality tea with a long leaf and few tips. It is considered second grade in Assam and first grade in China. Further, the most superior quality is referred to as FOP1
- OP — Orange Pekoe, it is the main grade and consists of a long wiry leaf without tips. It is further classified into OP1 (more delicate than OP), OPA (bolder than OP) and OPS (Superior OP from Indonesia)
- OPA — Orange Pekoe A, A long-leaf tea with large, thick leaves, that can be either tightly-wound or more open.
- P — Pekoe
- S — Souchong
Broken-leaf tea is a tea that has been torn or broken but is still in large enough pieces to be recognizable as pieces of leaf.
- BOP1 — Broken Orange Pekoe One
- GFBOP — Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- TGFBOP — Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- TGFBOP1 — Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Grade One. High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips. Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam
- BS — Broken Souchong
- BPS — Broken Pekoe Souchong
- GBOP — Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
- FBOP — Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe. This is coarser and broken with some tips. Popular in southern Asia.
- BOP — Broken Orange Pekoe. This is the main broken grade and is prevalent in Assam, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Southern India, Java, and China
Fannings are finely-broken pieces of tea leaf that still have a coarse texture. This type of tea grade is used in teabags. They are the smallest pieces of tea that are left over as the higher grades of teas are gathered to be sold. Fannings are also the rejects from the manufacturing process of making a higher quality of tea.
They are highly popular in India and other parts of southern Asia due to its strong brew. In order to brew fannings, the infuser is used due to its smaller size of leaves.
- GOF — Golden Orange Fannings
- FOF — Flowery Orange Fannings
- BOPF — Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings. Main grade in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and China. Black leaf tea with few added ingredients, uniform particle size, and no tips
- FBOPF — Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
Dust is a fine powder, much finer than fannings, made of tea particles leftover from producing higher grades of tea.
- OPD — Orange Pekoe Dust
- BOPD — Broken Orange Pekoe Dust
- BOPFD — Broken Orange Pekoe Fine Dust
- FD — Fine Dust
- D-A — Dust A
- Spl. D — Special Dust
- GD — Golden Dust
- OD — Orthodox Dust