Once the tea is processed by drying and rolling, there is a grading the leaves. When the tea processing is ‘finished’, it consists of a mixture of leaf pieces of different sizes. A small piece of tea leaf brews at a different speed to a large piece, so they must be sorted into different sizes, if they are to produce an evenly brewed cup of tea. The different leaf sizes are then graded and classified, and are divided into ‘leaf grades’ (the larger pieces) and ‘broken leaf grades’ (the smaller pieces). Understanding the following leaf grades will prove useful when choosing your tea. The Leaf Grading are as follows:
OP – orange pekoe
Contains larger leaves than FOP, and rarely contains ‘tip’, the delicate ends of the buds that are considered necessary for a fine tea.
FOP – flowery orange pekoe
Tea made with the bud and first two leaves of a shoot. Made with tender young leaves and the right amount of ‘tip’.
GFOP – golden flowery orange pekoe
The same as FOP, but made with the very tips of the golden yellow buds
TGFOP – tippy golden flowery orange pekoe
The same as GFOP, but comprising a higher proportion of tips
FTGFOP – finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe
The same as TGFOP, but of an even higher quality.