The Camellia Sinensis plant brings us five different categories of tea: black, oolong, green, white and pu’erh. The difference lies in the quality of leaf used, the type of plucking and subsequently processing of the leaves. Other ways to categorize teas are by country or region of origin, “singles estates” or blends (a categorization similar to whisky), addition of natural or artificial flavours.

Tea Leaf Grades

The quality of the tea can be told from the name of the various teas. These are some of the black tea leaf grades:

  1. Whole leaf tea grades
    • Orange pekoe (whole leaves)(also known as “Orange Pecco” or “OP”)
    • Pekoe (smaller, whole leaves)
    • Pekoe souchong (broad, whole tea leaves)
  2. Broken leaf tea grades
    • Broken pekoe
    • broken orange pekoe
    • Broken pekoe souchong
  3. Fannings
  4. Dust; this is used in tea bags.
    Doesn’t sound that great, does it?

“Tippy” Or “Flowery” Grades

Tea bags and loose tea leavesIndian and Ceylon teas have other types of classifications, indicating whether or not there are whole leaves or bud tips in the tea. This leads to names like (Tippy) Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

Orange Pekoe: “Orange”

The “Orange” part of the name does not relate to the colour or the citrus fruit, but rather the (still ruling) Dutch Royal family, The House of Orange-Nassau (Huis van Oranje-Nassau). Tea traders from the Dutch East India company created this name to market their tea with a royal stamp of approval.

Orange Pekoe: “Pekoe”

The other part of of the grade’s name comes from the Chinese word Pak-Ho; chosen as the white tea leaf buds resemble “fine white baby hair” (Pah-ho).