Tea grading methods have not been standardized in the manner that wine already has established a widely accepted system to grade quality.
However, the commercially succesful tea growing countries such as India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and some places in China have introduced a similar grading system using abbreviations to specify the size of the leaves and the processing method.
Although there is no third party verification involved, grading by the tea grower can be a useful indicator of quality and price for conscientious tea consumers.
We sum up for you the most common abbreviations of the tea grading system used by reliable and fine quality tea estates. (note: the price of whole tea leaves is much higher than broken leaves)
D: is for Dust. The tiniest particles of the broken tea leaves left behind after sifting due to mechanical damage by transportation or processing. The relatively smallest particle size has the biggest surface area and contributes to rapidly steeping of tea. This will affect negatively the sensory evaluation of the cup of tea. Due to its cheap price D grade tea is often used in tea bags
F: is for Fanning. Slightly larger than dust, this grade has the same rapid steeping property like D-grade and yields therefore similarly poor cup of teas.
BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe. Considerably large pieces of broken leaves, which need more time to infuse. This grade of tealeaves is slower to infuse than D and F. Many fine teas are available starting from this grade
OP: Orange Pekoe, pronounced [PEE-koh]. Orange pekoe is the grade for the smallest leaves, which are picked from the top of the plant. "Pekoe" describes medium-size, slightly coarser tealeaves. Tea that tastes good as a BOP will be even better in its OP grade. To be classified as pekoe, the tea must be composed purely of the new flushes - a flush being the flower bud plucked with two youngest leaves. A common misconception is that Orange Pekoe is a type of tea with an orange flavor, or that is otherwise somehow associated with the orange fruit. In fact, however, the word 'Orange' has nothing at all to do with the tea's flavor. A popular explanation is that it refers to the Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau, who had a central role in bringing tea to Europe.
FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe. This orange pekoe grade also includes some “tips” or leaf buds.
G: Golden. Refers to the presence of yellowish pieces of the leaf bud recognized by the naked eyes. This property contributes to the higher grade of tea.
T: Tippy. Indicates the presence of the whole leaf bud. This property contributes to the highest grade of tea.
GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Often referred to flowery orange pekoe with “tips” and flowers that are golden in color.
TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. A larger ratio of golden tips would be included in this classification of flowery orange pekoe.
FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Teas falling into this classification are usually a premier estate’s finest teas. Mostly comprised of golden flowers, leaf buds, and the youngest tea leaves.
SFTGFOP: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Exceptional highest grade of tea.
- D (Dust)
- F (Fannings)
- BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe)
- OP (Orange Pekoe)
- FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)