|The Discovery of Tea
|In the year 2737 B.C., Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was boiling a pot of water to
drink, believing it to be healthier, when a leaf from the Camellia sinensis tree,
carried on the wind, accidentally landed in the boiling water.
|The A-B-C's of Tea
|The grading or sorting of tea is the final stage of
the manufacturing process. Black tea, which is
fully oxidized emerges from the dryers or ovens
|and passes through sifters with graduated mesh sizes, dividing the tea into the various grades
or sizes of leaf.
Black tea is primarily graded by the various sized pieces which are divided
into two main categories; whole leaf grades and broken leaf grades.
The whole leaf grades are the larger pieces of leaf left after the smaller
pieces, or broken leaf grades have been sifted out.
The grading of tea is important because when brewing, the flavor, color,
and strength of brew all depend on the size of the leaf. The larger the
leaf, the slower it brews (or infuses), and vice-versa, the smaller the
pieces the faster it infuses.
But before we get down to the actual grading system, there's one more term we need to look
at, and that's orange pekoe.
|It's Not Orange, and It's Not Peek-O
|Many people think that orange pekoe is a type of tea (as I did before I learned differently).
Pekoe (pronounced pek-o) is a Chinese word meaning "white hairs,"
which in tea refers to the downy tips of young tea buds. So it's
somewhat understandable where the term pekoe originated from.
But where did the orange part come from? A few tales have been
passed down through the centuries as to its origin. One refers to
the scenting of tea with orange blossoms, or that it may be a refer-
ence to royalty-as in "The House of Orange," used by Dutch traders,
possibly to glamorize tea.
Whatever the case may be, it has nothing to do with the flavor,
quality, or type of tea, but rather a grading term referring to the size of leaf.
|What's the Grade
Whole Leaf or Broken Leaf?
|Okay, now it's time to get down to how tea is actually graded. The following categories apply
mainly to black teas (mostly from India and Sri Lanka), and are broken down into whole leaf
grades, and broken leaf grades.
The following categories apply to Whole
FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe
Made from the end bud and first leaf of each
shoot. Fine young, tender leaves, rolled
with just the right proportion of tip and del-
icate end pieces of buds.
TGFOP-Tippy Golden Flowery Orange
FOP with the addition of more golden tips of
GFOP-Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) with the add-
ition of the "golden tips" of the young buds.
FTGFOP-Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FOP of exceptionally high quality
SFTGFOP-Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
The very best FOP
Long pointed leaves that are larger than FOP and harvested when end buds open into leaf. Seldom contains "tips".
Short, less fine leaves than OP (Orange Pekoe)
Leaves that are rolled into balls
Short, courser leaves than P (Pekoe)
Often refers to China's smoked teas. Large leaves, rolled lengthwise, creating course, ragged pieces of leaf.
Wow! That's quite a laundry list of descriptive tea terms. And that's just the whole leaf grades. Now let's take a
look at the broken leaf grades. Other than the pieces of leaf being smaller, the descriptions given with the whole
leaf grades are the same as for Broken Leaf Grades:
GFBOP-Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOP-Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP-Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGFBOP-Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP-Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
BOP-Broken Orange Pekoe
BPS-Broken Pekoe Souchong
And now last, but not least are the fannings, or fines (sometimes referred to as dusts). Fannings are made up of the
smallest pieces of tea. They're mostly used in tea bags, which brew quicker, and in blends.
(Note: A number 1 may be added after the letter grading to denote best quality, i.e. BOF1 for Broken Orange
Fannings of best quality).
BOF-Broken Orange Fannings
BPF-Broken Pekoe Fannings
RD-Pekoe Dust/Red Dust
SRD-Super Red Dust
SFD-Super Fine Dust
BMF-Broken Mixed Fannings
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No reproductions of any kind allowed without permission
|In that moment tea was born, and
in the centuries since, its popular-
ity has never waned. Today tea is
known by hundreds of different names and
Spanning centuries, and coming up through a
multitude of cultures and countries, it's no wonder
the terminology surrounding tea can be a bit
confusing at first. But like everything, once you
understand the basics, the rest is easy.
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