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Does My Tea Have Orange In It? And What Is Pekoe?

You may have heard or read that your tea is Orange Pekoe, but what does that actually mean? Isn't it called black tea? Well, yes it is, but it could also be Orange Pekoe. So, does that mean the tea has orange in it? No, not at all. Let us explain.

loose leaf black tea

Orange Pekoe, or OP, is one level of a system of grading loose-leaf black tea. As a matter of fact, it's considered the lowest grade but still indicates high quality. But what does it mean?

Like many unique phrases and terms, the exact origin of the term Orange Pekoe has been lost. Some believe Pekoe may be a transcription of the Chinese term for the feathery or hairy look of the buds of the tea plant - pehoe. As for the Orange portion of the phrase, it may derive from the Dutch East India Company House of Orange-Nassau or it could possibly be in reference to the color of the leaves as they oxidize. Regardless of the source of the term, it has become the go-to phrase for denoting the quality of whole leaf, loose-leaf black tea.

As mentioned above, Orange Pekoe is the lowest grade with the remaining levels including (in order from lowest to highest):

  • Orange Pekoe
  • Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

The difference from level to level is determined by how whole the leaf is as well as the size of the leaf. The smaller the leaf, and the more whole the leaf, the higher the grade. 

There is also a comparable grading system for broken leaf, loose-leaf black tea.

  • Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
  • Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

Wow, there are a lot of words there. What do they mean? Well, once you have an understanding of each term, you can apply that definition regardless of whether you are reading about whole leaf or broken leaf teas.

Pekoe - the bud of tea leaves (typically still rolled in on itself, similar to a flower bud)

Orange - possibly the color of the leaves as they begin to oxidize

Flowery - most often the larger tea leaves

Golden Flowery - the younger tips or buds that are usually golden in color

Tippy - lots of tips (the tips of the tea leaves - these tend to break off easily)

Fannings - the larger bits of tea leaves left behind as the higher grades are sorted

Dust - the tiny bits of tea leaves left behind as the higher grades are sorted

Fannings and dust, though they are the lowest of the grades, are still highly prized primarily for teabags. They tend to have a stronger flavor and are less expensive.

The tea shop at CoffeeAM has a wide variety of quality, gourmet teas for you to select from. Our Ceylon Supreme Flowery Orange Pekoe Tea steeps to a heavy and dark liquor with a bright and mild aroma. Our Ceylon Chester Broken Orange Pekoe Tea is full-flavored yet delicate with a mellow and brisk body that is extremely refreshing. 

Our rich and robust Assam Broken Orange Pekoe Tea is delightful with a splash of milk to highlight the flavors. Anything but basic, our China Black FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe) has a strong flavor and aroma perfect on its own or as an accompaniment to your meal.

Finally, our Darjeeling Tea Finest Tippy is classified as Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe. With a flavor reminiscent of Muscat grapes, this wine-like tea is light and refreshing.

Now that you know more about teas and one of their (many) grading systems, adding this delightful beverage to your daily routine can be a little less daunting. 

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