The leaves of green and Oolong-teas teas are usually whole and the grade is not specified. The same applies for a few of the black teas, particularly Chinese, where its name is a synonym of quality. For other black teas the grade is important since it gives two pieces of information: the fineness of the crop, and the size of the leaf (whole, broken, ground).
In these grading the term "orange" is not connected with the fruit of the same name. It means "royal", and comes from the name of the Dutch dynasty Orange Nassau. As for the word Pekoe it comes, as you will remember, from the Chinese word Pak-ho meaning "fine hair" or "down", and denotes the end bud, which gives an impression of white down, since it is not entirely open.
F.O.P. Flowery Orange Pekoe
This is the finest crop of all. It is composed of the final bud and the following two leaves. The tea contains many buds that, after they have been browned during fermentation, are sometimes known as "golden tips".
O.P. Orange Pekoe
These are young, tightly rolled leaves. The crop is fine but a little later than the previous one: in this case the bud has already become a leaf.
The leaf is less fine than the O.P. and does not contain any buds.
The leaves here are lower, larger, older and with a lower caffeine content; they are often rolled lengthwise and are used above all for smoked teas.
The leaf is no longer whole and is much smaller than the O.P. An infusion of this tea gives a much darker, stronger beverage.
- B.O.P. Broken Orange Pekoe
- F.B.O.P. Flowery B.O.P.
- G.B.O.P. Golden B.O.P.
- T.G.B.O.P. Tippy Golden B.O.P.
Flat pieces smaller than broken leaves. The infusion produced is very strong and highly coloured.
Leaves not yet ground, mainly used for tea bags.
G.F.O.P. Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
F.O.P. has a high proportion of buds.
T.G.F.O.P. Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
F.O.P. containing many golden buds.
F.T.G.F.O.P. Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
F.O.P. of exceptional quality.
S.F.T.G.F.O.P. Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
F.O.P. of the finest exceptional quality. A grade that is usually reserved for the best springtime Darjeelings.
A number is sometimes added after the grade to classify, not the fineness of the crop, but the tasting quality of the tea obtained.