Quick guide to tea leaf grading terms


Finished estate teas are classified into grades to clarify the appearance of the product. This classification, however, does not reveal anything about the quality of the tea, which can only really be done by skilled tea tasters.

The most current leave grades are:
Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) Denotes tea from the end bud and first leaf of each shoot. FOP contains fine tender young leaves rolled with the correct proportion of tip. The word pekoe is thought to be of Chinese origin referring to the silver hairs found on the young buds, whilst the word orange does not have anything to do with the teas flavour, but one suggestion is the Dutch East India company may have marketed the tea as "Orange" to suggest a royal endorsement from The Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau.
Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP) This is FOP but with 'golden tips' which are the very ends of the golden yellow buds
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP) This is the same as FOP but the T for Tippy denotes a large proportion of golden tips present in the tea.
Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP) This is excellent quality FOP
Special (Superior) Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP) This is as good as it gets! This is the very best FOP. The term 'superior' is often used when describing other types of tea to denote the best quality within that tea.
Orange Pekoe This kind of tea rarely contains 'tips' but has larger leaves than found in FOP that have been harvested when the buds open into leaf.
Pekoe (P) This contains shorter leaves than OP, often much less finer.
Flowery Pekoe (FP) Leaves for this classification are rolled into balls.
Pekoe Souchong (PS) Contains shorter, coarser leaves than P
Souchong (S) Most often this term is associated with China's smoked teas and describes large leaves that are rolled raggedly lengthwise
Broken Leaf Grades Broken Leaf Grades are divided into many categories but can best be identified by the last three letters 'BOP' - meaning Broken Orange Pekoe. There are as many variations as for the leaf grade, but the letter meanings are the same i.e. GFBOP means Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe etc.
Fannings/Fines or Dust These are made up of the finest siftings and are mainly used in blends for tea bags requiring a quick brew. Their presence is denoted by the letter 'F' for Fannings e.g. BOPF - Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings, or 'D' for dust, e.g. PD - Pekoe Dust.