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Tea nomenclature

Due to a lack of information on the subject, there is great confusion over one of the simplest of tea terms, OP (Orange Pekoe). Contrary to popular opinion, Orange Pekoe does not refer to a particular flavor, or even to a specific variety or quality or tea. Orange Pekoe is nothing more than a designation of leaf size.

As a result of the manufacturing process, the final product is composed of leaf particles of varying sizes. Because the finer particles steep quickly, the tea is sifted into lots of uniform leaf size. Teas designated OP are composed of larger leaf particles or whole leaves that will not pass through a sieve of a particular gauge. BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) designates a grade that is finer than OP. Grades finer than BOP are called fannings, PF for Pekoe Fannings, and the smallest particles are referred to as dust. Dust grades are used primarily in teabags.

Other letters are often appended to the grade of tea to produce a baffling list of designations such as SFTGFOP1 (Super-Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, grade 1). While there is a general correlation between acronyms and the general appearance and character of the tea, there is no strict correlation between the acronyms and the value or flavor of the tea. While these lengthy acronyms appear on nearly every chest of single-estate tea, the real value of the tea is in its appeal to the palate.

A brief guide to decoding the specifications

  • PF: Pekoe Fannings
  • OP: Orange Pekoe
  • BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe
  • GBOP: Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • GTGFBOP: Golden Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • BPS: Broken Pekoe Souchong
  • FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FTGFOP: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FTGFOP1: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, grade 1
  • SFTGFOP1: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, grade 1
  • Musc: Muscatel
  • Cl: Clonal
  • Ch: China varietal
  • Qu: Queen jat
  • FBOPF Ex Spl: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (Extra Special). Ceylon spider-leg style
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