OP, BOP, GFOF, TGFOP… Understanding Tea Grades

White TeapotThere are a number of abbreviations seen next to the names of some black teas, that represent grading terms, used to provide information about the type of leaves contained in a particular bag of tea. Tea leaves are prepared in different ways, from how they are plucked to the way they are processed, and tea grading terms can inform the buyer about the size and appearance of the leaves, and give an indication of their quality. They are not used for every type of tea, or from every tea-producing country, but are more often associated with black teas from countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia or Africa, rather than China or Taiwan, where different grading terms are used.

Tea leaves and buds are plucked and prepared in various ways to produce leaves, or particles of leaves, of varying sizes, from high quality, whole leaf Orange Pekoe, to Broken Leaf, Fannings and Dust grades. However, Fannings and Dust graded teas made from quality leaves can still produce a flavoursome infusion, that may not take as long to brew. The delicate younger leaves and buds of tea plants usually contain higher concentrations of aromatic oils than more mature leaves, and must be carefully plucked by hand. Sometimes, just the top bud is used, or the top bud and first one or two leaves.

If you’ve ever been curious about the meaning of tea grading terms, some of the main abbreviations and descriptions used are listed here:

Whole Leaf Grades

 Grade                         Name

OP Orange Pekoe
FOP Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
SFTGFOP Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

 

Broken Leaf Grades

BP Broken Pekoe
FP Flowery Pekoe
BOP Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOP Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

 

Fannings Grades

PF Pekoe Fannings
OF Orange Fannings
FOF Flowery Orange Fannings
GFOF Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
TGFOF Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
BOPF Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings

 

Dust Grades

PD Pekoe Dust
BOPD Broken Orange Pekoe Dust

 

Within these grades, a number ‘1' written after the letters may denote a higher quality leaf.

The word ‘Pekoe’ is thought to have derived from the pale and dusty appearance of young, unopened buds, resembling the fine, downy hair of babies, described as ‘pak-ho’ in Chinese.

‘Orange’ doesn’t refer to a colour or flavour, but is thought to be associated with the history of Dutch tea importers.

‘Broken’ indicates where leaves have been chopped into smaller pieces.

‘Flowery’ refers to the aroma of the buds.

‘Golden’ describes the appearance of tips that have turned golden when oxidised.

‘Tippy’ refers to tea with an abundance of flowering buds.


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