Tea Grading 101: A Comprehensive List of Tea Grades

24Jul06

I thought I’d follow up my previous post about black tea with a simple explanation of those mysterious acronyms sometimes found on packages of tea.

Remember that tea grades are not standardized, so they may vary widely according to country or region of origin. Also, tea grades do not necessarily indicate quality. The acronyms found below describe the dry leaf’s appearance, not its taste. Taste, after all, is in the tongue of the beholder.

Here’s my current list of tea grade terminology – if you know of any other grades, or if you feel one of my definitions needs clarification, I’d love to hear from you.

Pekoe

The word “pekoe” comes from the Chinese word bai hwa or “white flower”. In Taiwan, occasionally the Latin alphabet is used with a language system called POJ (an interesting bit of trivia to impress your friends with: this system was actually developed by the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church). Under the POJ system, the word is “peh-hoe”, which has evolved over time into “pekoe”. Today the term is used to classify a superior grade of black tea.

A pekoe tip is the down-like white or yellow hair on the tip of the youngest tea leaves. So the next time you hear someone refer to a tea as being “tippy”, you’ll know that they mean it has an abundance of tips!

OP: Orange Pekoe

No, it’s not orange flavored tea. It does not refer to a particular flavor, color, or even quality. It simply designates a particular leaf size. During the manufacture of tea, the resulting product is leaves of varying sizes. OP denotes a particular size (typically larger leaves) that will not pass through a sieve of particular width.

Choppy

Tea is called choppy when a lot of tea contains leaves of widely varying sizes.

OP Sup.: Orange Pekoe Superior.

This grade is only produced in Indonesia.

BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe

Tea classified as BOP means that it is somewhat finer that Orange Pekoe (OP).

Fannings

Also known as tea dust, fannings are small particles of tea leaves, used almost exclusively in tea bag production.

PF: Pekoe Fannings

Tea designated as PF are even finer than BOP grade.

GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

The “golden flowery” in this acronym means that the tea contains very young tips or buds that have been plucked early in the season. The buds are typically golden, hence the name.

Tippy
:

When tea is tippy, it indicates an abundance of tips, the down-like white or yellow hair on the tip of the youngest tea leaves.

CTC BOP: Crush Tear Curl Broken Orange Pekoe.

CTC production, as the name indicates, means that the leaves are crushed, torn and then curled. BOP grades mean that the tips of the leaves are still present, greatly enhancing the aroma and flavor of the tea. There’s a common misunderstanding that CTC leaves are of inferior quality because they tend to be used in teabags. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Some of the best tasting Assam teas are CTC BOPs.

GFBOP: Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.

GFBOP production is mainly in Assam and to a smaller extent, in Kenya.

GBOP: Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

GBOP tea has fewer tips than GFBOP.

TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

TGBOP is a broken grade of tea that has an abundance of tips with smooth leaves. This grade is produced in Darjeeling and Assam.

TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

TGFOP tea is the primary grade of Assam and Darjeeling tea. Also with an abundance of tips.

FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe

FOP tea is made from the first leaf and bud of the shoot.

FTGFOP1: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1

A common joke among tea industry practitioners is that this grade is “Far Too Good For Ordinary People!

SFTGFOP:Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
This grade is one of the most sought after. It’s full of tips and young tea leaves.

SFTGFOP1:Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1

Say that 10 times fast! The number “1” denotes that it is better than just SFTGFOP.

BPS: Broken Pekoe Souchong

The “Souchong” in the name indicates a bold and round leaf.

FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

BP: Broken Pekoe

CL: Clonal

Clonal teas are teas that are plucked from clones, or seedlings that are copied from another tea plant.

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16 Responses to “Tea Grading 101: A Comprehensive List of Tea Grades”

  1. Thank you for this very useful article. Concise and interesting.

  2. 2 stephen

    What does KGFOP mean? K?

  3. @stephen – Darjeeling green tea sometimes has a “K” prepended to the grade. As far as I know, it is just an unofficial way of saying that it is “Green Tea GFOP.”

  4. 4 yuemoto

    what about flush? First flush should be better, how does the quality (aroma/taste) different from same grade 2nd flush?

    what about price difference?

  5. 5 George Franklin

    When vendors say a tea is tippy, does this quality affect the overall taste? Or is it more aesthetic?

  6. 6 Prasoon SIngh

    CAn you explain the terms RCT, NRCT and PST in terms of tea terminology?

  7. 7 ann

    ?? what is OPA

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  9. W – Wiry
    I – First Flush, and II – Second Flush
    Nepal Tea

  10. Ann, OPA is OP (“A” quality). Extra-big leaf.

  11. 11 ahmed mahdi

    what I want to know the means of BMF tea which auction in Mombasa tea auction house. and it is sold lowest price THanks.

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  1. 1 2006 Assam Broken Pekoe Souchong (BPS) from Gingia T.E « The Simple Leaf Blog - Tea. Uncomplicated.
  2. 2 Bagged v. Loose « Simplici~Tea
  3. 3 | Fonkelhorse
  4. 4 Having a nice cuppa… « The Rough Draft

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