tea grades, what do the letters mean for tea, pekoe, linda villano, serendipitea, tomislav podreka
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ALPHABET SOUP: Tea Grades Decoded by Linda Villano

Monday, October 19th 2015 @ 10:58 AM

Tea Grades, depicted by a string of letters following the name or type of tea, can be baffling and mysterious.  The codes help tea buyers & sellers communicate about the type of leaf being requested and/or being offered.


This primer will hopefully demystify the meanings.


P ~ Pekoe

PF ~ Pekoe Fanning

OP ~ Orange Pekoe

FOP ~ Flowery Orange Pekoe

GFOP ~ Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

GBOP ~ Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

TGFOP ~ Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

FTGFOP ~ Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

SFTGFOP ~ Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

TIG ~ Tea Is Great (not a real tea grade, rather a sentiment we tea lovers all share)

Photo Credit SerendipiTea

"....I must address the pekoe. The Chinese word pak-ho roughly means "white or light down," or, as some experts say, literally refers to the soft fuzz on a newborn baby's bottom. The old-fashioned meaning for pekoe, then refers to the downy substance on the bud. But as the language of a tea has evolved, the substance now refers to the second leaf on the shoot of a fine plucking.

Orange Pekoe leaves have nothing to do with the color orange or the flavor of the citrus fruit. The term, derived from a reference to the princes of Orange, was most likely used by Dutch traders to indicate fancy tea. Today, Orange Pekoe refers to the larger of the leaves on a fine plucking, and the term indicates a generally good-quality tea and would certainly not fit in a tea bag!

The best grade of tea is whole leaf tea. These teas are designated by series of initials that frequently include the letter P, for Pekoe. For example, the initials PS refer to Pekoe Souchong. Souchong leaves are the third leaves on the shoot and therefore from a course plucking and not considered as good as orange pekoe leaves.

The best grades of leaf are judged by the size and fullness of the twisted leaf and the lack of stem (except for Taiwanese Oolong tea leaves, which commonly have stems). Good teas are also judged by the brightness of the leaf's color and the presence of buds. When the tea contain buds, words such as golden, tippy, tip, and flowery indicate their desirable presence."

The grade FOP refers to a very good leaf tea. This indicates that the tea is made from fine pluckings with just the right amount of bud and tender leaf tips. From here, the grades go up, through GFOP, TGFOP, FTGFOP, finally to SFTGFOP!"

Excerpt from:
SerendipiTea: a guide to the varieties, origins and rituals of tea by Tomislav Podreka


~ Linda Villano, SerendipiTea
SerendipiTea is Celebrating 20 Years in 2015!  Read the News here.

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© All content and images are copyright of author.
LINDA VILLANO co-founded SerendipiTea.com in 1995 with Tomislav Podreka. With a passion for all things Tea, she oversees all aspects of the business; including client consulting, concept and design, staff training, sourcing and product development (recipe creations). Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs, she considers her role as a purveyor of premium teas & tisanes a natural continuation of her family’s culinary tradition.   Linda is a published illustrator and writer. Her illustrations appear in Tomislav Podreka’s book, SerendipiTea: a guide to the varieties, origins and rituals of tea, and she writes articles about tea for trade publications.

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