Perhaps one of the lesser known stages of black tea production is the final stage, where tea leaves are sorted and categorized based upon the leaf size and the part of the branch the tea leaf was obtained.
This information is then used to assign a black tea leaf into a category: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings and dust. In the grading of black teas from India and Sri Lanka, grading is done based on the appearance of the leaves such as Golden (G), which describes the golden or silvery tips of some leaves and buds, Flowery (F), which describes a more open leaf resembling a flower, and Tippy (T), which describes the abundance of tips. Orange Pekoe (OP) describes the youngest tea leaves, picked very closely to the end of the branch. These are whole leaf teas with no tippiness. An additional description may be added to describe the grade of the tea such as Fine (F) and Super Fine (SF). You may also see a number 1 or 2 appear to further designate a finer grade tea.
A summary of whole leaf tea grade suffixes is included below:
- SFTGFOP1 (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – grade 1)
- FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe)
- GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe)
- OP (Orange Pekoe)
While grading does differ depending on where the tea is grown, typically TGFOP grades are known as the largest and fanciest tea grades.
Broken tea leaves are smaller pieces of tea leaves and are of lesser quality (and lower grade) than whole leaves. To identify these when making a purchase, note that teas made up of broken tea leaves add Broken (B) to their suffix identifier, such as:
- BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe)
- FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe)
- TGFBOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Pekoe)
The final categories are of the lowest tea grades. Fannings are very small, broken leaves, and dusts (or sweepings) are the very smallest pieces that remain. Examples of suffixes assigned to these teas include: BOPF (Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings) and BOPD (Broken Orange Pekoe Dusts).
EnjoyingTea.com offers a large variety of high grade black teas including the fantastic fruit flavored black teas, most of which are made from top grade Orange Pekoe Ceylon and contain natural fruit flavoring. These fruity teas are great to serve over ice for a cool summer treat! We also recommend our Darjeeling Black Tea (TGFOP1), a superb and quite rare tea, the fragrance of which is most often described as similar to the taste of muscat grapes.