What are the tea grades for Black Tea and what do they mean?

Tea grades of black tea
Tea grades of black tea

Leaf tea grading is a process in the tea industry to evaluate the products based on the quality and condition of the tea leaves used to make them. The sizes of the tea leaves after plucking determines the quality as the smaller tea leaves are more valuable than larger tea leaves. There are various tea grades with the highest tea grade being “orange pekoe” and the lowest being “fannings” or “dust”. The tea grades are used to identify the type and style of dry leaf. There are various parameters that ultimately determine the tea grade like size of the leaf, type of tea leaves in the mix, bloom of the leaves, aroma, taste and the color of the final brew.

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.

“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.

The “broken pekoe” tea grades are a reference to the crushed form of tea that is used in tea bags. These are the lower grades as they consist of fannings and dust that are sometime residues of the crushing process.

Black Tea Leaf Grading
Black Tea Leaf Grading

The grade of the tea is also said to reflect the caffeine content to a large extent as the leaf buds contain more caffeine content than mature tea leaves. The tea grade also affects the brewing. Whole leaves require the longest infusion times while fannings and dust infuse the fastest.

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.

What do the abbreviations in tea grades mean?

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 which 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.

Here is the list of all types of tea grades:

Whole leaf tea:

Whole leaf tea is not broken or torn during the 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 a main grade and consists of 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:

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 is 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:

Fannings are finely-broken pieces of tea leaf that still have a coarse texture. This type of tea grade is used in tea bags. They are smallest pieces of tea that are left over as the higher grades of teas are gathered to be sold. They 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, 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:

Dust is a fine powder, much finer than fannings, made of tea particles left over 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
Black Tea Grades
Black Tea Grades

Black Tea available at teakruthi and their tea grades

Broken Orange Pekoe One (BOP1)

At teakruthi, Colonial Mornings Pure Ceylon Black Tea (Rainforest Alliance Certified and UTZ Certified) is available as BOP1 tea. This hand-plucked, hand-crafted blend originates from the Dimbulla region, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest plantation regions founded by English colonial traders. Sweet, spicy, strong flavors and a lingering perfume aroma leaves you feeling refreshed with a general sense of well-being. Our Colonial Mornings blend is crafted from leaves cultivated at high altitudes, giving it a medium to full body with slightly fruity, mineral notes and an appearance that is reddish-amber in color. It is aromatic and floral with a fresh an clean flavor that makes for the perfect breakfast indulgence.

Southern Malt (Black Tea) is another BOP1 tea grade tea available at Teakruthi. This low grown tea has been hand-plucked from the southern part of Sri Lanka, where the unique composition of the soil makes it particularly special in taste and color. This blend is considered one of finest broken teas. Its rare, refined quality has made this tea a favorite in Russia and Germany. So, what makes Southern Malt so special? This is a full-bodied tea has a malty, fresh flavor unlike any other tea. The southern soil of Sri Lanka nourished the leaves and gave them their black color and brought strength to the cup. Its beautiful copper color mirrors its taste in richness.

Royal Midlands (Black Tea) is also BOP1 tea grade. This medium grown blend is malty, fresh, slightly tart, and strong. For this Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) grade tea, we use a wiry, medium-length leaf that provides this blend its malty flavor. The leaves are plucked from our plantations in Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lankan royalty. Kandy is situated at 2,000–4,000ft above sea level and is today known for its mid-grown teas recognized for its bright infusion and coppery tone. Although appearing light in the cup (dark gold,) Royal Midlands offers strength and body for a flavorful tasting experience.

Broken Pekoe One (BP1)

Pure Rainforest Indulgence Ceylon Black Tea is a low grown full-bodied blend that is hand-plucked from the shade of the Sinharaja Rainforest in Sri Lanka. Made from the highest quality leaves, Rainforest Indulgence offers a unique flavor. Rather than hand-rolling to bruise the leaf and introduce oxidation, this tea was produced by a modern mechanical process that instead of tears the leaf. Only limited amounts of Broken Pekoe (BP) grade Ceylon tea is produced, so this tea is truly a special morning treat. This strong tea is reddish orange in color.

Orange Pekoe (OP)

This grade of Wild Monsson Ceylon black tea is harvested from our Wild Monsoon blend from the Southern province of Sri Lanka in the Ruhuna tea district. This tea grows in an area nourished by high humidity and monsoon season and surrounded by diverse wildlife. The forests of Ruhuna are home to elephants, leopards, bears, wild boar, deer, giant flamingos, and of course, the finest teas. The area is teeming with life; it is never dull. Dark gold in color, this tea is mild, malty, and fine, and delivers to your pallet a lively flavor that tastes like an adventure.

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