Tea leaf grading is the process of evaluating products based on the quality and condition of the tea leaves themselves.
This is a standard In the tea industry.
The highest grades are referred to as orange pekoe, and the lowest as fannings or dust . Pekoe tea grades are classified into various qualities, each determined by how many of the adjacent young leaves (two, one, or none) were picked along with the leaf buds.
Top-quality pekoe grades consist of only the leaf buds, which are picked using the balls of the fingertips. Fingernails and mechanical tools are not used, to avoid bruising.
When crushed to make bagged teas, the tea is referred to as “broken”, as in “broken orange pekoe” (“BOP”). These lower grades include fannings and dust, which are tiny remnants created in the sorting and crushing processes.
Orange pekoe is referred to as “OP”. The grading scheme also contains categories higher than OP, which are determined primarily by leaf wholeness and size
Broken, fannings and dust orthodox teas have slightly different grades. CTC teas, which consist of leaves mechanically rendered to uniform fannings, have yet another grading system.
Choppy contains many leaves of various sizes. Fannings are small particles of tea leaves used almost exclusively in tea bags. Flowery consists of large leaves, typically plucked in the second or third flush with an abundance of tips. Golden flowery includes very young tips or buds (usually golden in colour) that were picked early in the season. Tippy includes an abundance of tips.
Whole leaf grades:
Main grade, consisting of long wiry leaf without tips.
More delicate than OP; long, wiry leaf with a light liquor.
Bolder than OP; long leaf tea which ranges from tightly wound to almost open.
Orange Pekoe Superior
Primarily from Indonesia; similar to OP.
Flowery Orange Pekoe
High-quality tea with a long leaf and few tips, considered the second grade in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh teas, but the first grade in China.
Limited to only the highest quality leaves in the FOP classification.
Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Higher proportion of tip than FOP. Top grade in the Milima and Marinyn regions, but uncommon in Assam and Darjeeling.
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
The highest proportion of tip, and the main grade in Darjeeling and Assam.
Limited to only the highest quality leaves in the TGFOP classification.
Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Highest quality grade.
Limited to only the highest quality leaves in the FTGFOP classification.
Broken leaf grades:
Broken Tea : Usually a black, open, fleshy leaf that is very bulky. This classification is used in Sumatra, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and some parts of Southern India.
BP : Broken Pekoe , The most common broken pekoe grade; from Indonesia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Assam and Southern India.
BPS : Broken Pekoe Souchong , Term for broken pekoe in the Assam and Darjeeling regions.
FP : Flowery Pekoe , High-quality pekoe. Usually coarser with a fleshier, broken leaf. Produced in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Southern India, as well as in some parts of Kenya.
BOP : Broken Orange Pekoe , Main broken grade. Prevalent in Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Southern India, Java, and China.
FBOP : Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe , Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America, coarser, black broken.
FBOPF : Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
The finest broken orange pekoe, with a higher proportion of tips; mainly from Ceylon’s “low districts”.
GBOP : Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
Second grade tea with uneven leaves and few tips.
GFBOP1 : Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1
As above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the GFBOP classification.
TGFBOP1 : Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1
High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips; finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam.
PF : Pekoe Fannings
OF : Orange Fannings
From northern India and some parts of Africa and South America.
FOF: Flowery Orange Fannings
Common in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.
GFOF : Finest grade in Darjeeling for tea bag production.
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.