Premium Quality Tea and Tea Leaf Grading
Almost all of us have had a cup of tea and most likely enjoyed the experience. Tea is a very relaxing and satisfying beverage, and yet, people are not entirely sure of the quality of the tea they are consuming. Like with many other foods and drinks, high-quality tea leaves add much more flavor and aroma to the drink. In the case of herbal teas, premium quality leaves are more beneficial as compared to lower-quality ones. As we do not get to sample our tea before we purchase it, there is a possibility of feeling unsatisfied with a tea brand after you purchase it. To help people navigate the world of tea, there exists a grading system that rates the high-quality and low-quality teas based on their freshness, quality, and size.
Tea leaf grading refers to the evaluation process that takes place when a tea leaf is plucked. Tea leaves are checked for their quality and are classified into grades to help with the manufacturing process. In the tea industry, especially in the Western and South Asian tea trade, tea leaves are typically divided into four grades – Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings, and Dust.
Whole Leaf Tea
Whole leaf tea consists of tea leaves that have not been torn or broken apart during the production process. These leaves are of premium quality and are part of the best-graded teas in the world. The appearance of the leaves depends on how they were plucked and processed after that.
Orange Pekoe is considered to be a premium quality tea under the whole leaf tea grade. The tea leaves are long and almost wire-like. The OP1 is more delicate and provides a delicate flavor. The OPA is stronger and provides a more enhanced tea flavor.
The Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) is a premium quality tea with leaves that are long and slim. In China, FOP is considered to be of the highest quality. The Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe is a category under FOP, and these leaves have more tips than FOP. The Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP) has the highest number of tips and is considered to be of the highest quality in Darjeeling and Assam. The Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP) is a premium grade tea that falls under this category. The FTGFOP1, SFTGFOP, and SFTGFOP constitute the highest quality leaves under this category.
Broken Leaf Tea
Broken tea grade leaves are broken or torn during the plucking and production process but still hold their shape as leaves. The typically broken tea grade leaves are dark or black in color. They are quite bulky and fleshy to the touch.
Broken Orange Pekoe is the most commonly occurring tea leaf in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and South India. In Assam and Darjeeling, people call this type of tea leaf Broken Orrange Pekoe Souchong. Under this category, Flowery Pekoe is of superior quality and can be identified as the more fleshy and rough kind. Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) and Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP) are the chief broken grade tea leaf that has a rough, broken texture along with some tips. These grades are usually available throughout Assam, Sri Lanka, South India, Java, and China. Under this category, the Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery (FBOPF) has the highest number of tips.
Next comes the Golden Orange Pekoe, the second-grade broken tea leaf. These tea leaves do not have a uniform texture, and a few of them carry tips. The Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 (GFBOP1) forms the highest quality of tea leaves under this category.
The Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 (TGF BOP1) is comprised of the highest quality broken first-grade leaves. These tea lives have a high proportion of tips as well. The tea leaves are typically grown in Darjeeling and Assam.
Fannings Tea Leaves
Fannings are the next type of tea leaves - most commonly found in tea bags. These leaves have a distinct coarse texture and are sorted out during the manufacture of higher-grade teas. Fannings tea leaves produce a strong flavor and are used across tea stalls in India.
Pekoe Fannings and Orange Fannings are the basic leaves and are typically found in Northern India, Africa, and South America. Flowery Orange Fannings tea leaves are commonly found in Assam and Bangladesh.
For the purposes of tea bag production, Golden Flowery Orange Fannings and Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings are the most sought-after leaves. Lastly, Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings are comprised of uniform black tea leaves without any tips.
Dust Tea Leaves
Dust tea grade leaves have a much finer texture than others. Dust tea grade leaves are typically what remains after the sorting of higher grades of teas. The most commonly found dust tea leaves are – Orange Pekoe Dust, Broken Orange Pekoe Dust, Broken Orange Pekoe Fine Dust, Fine Dust, Dust A, Special Dust, Golden Dust, and Orthodox Dust.
In order to identify the most premium quality teas, one will have to make a note of four aspects – sight, touch, smell, and taste. The tea leaves are best when they are unbroken and processed as a whole. Sometimes, in order to cut costs, tea manufacturers use a harsh manufacturing process which rids the tea of its subtle flavors. At our store, we use a delicate process so that every tea leaf is treated with care. As for the touch, the tea leaves should feel a little bulky and textural. Premium quality leaves feel smooth and whole.
High-quality teas have a distinct and strong aroma. Similarly, teas that are of good quality should provide the tea drinker with a distinct, multi-layered taste. Premium quality teas offer nuanced flavors that are both flavourful and refreshing.
In our online tea store, you will find a range of different premium teas. We are committed to picking the finest-quality tea leaves and customizing them to give you the best in flavor. We have a wide array of tea leaves which are hand-picked or loose and are processed by experts. You can find a range of teas such as black tea, green tea, organic tea, flavored black, and green tea, fruit tea, herbal tea, oolong tea, and rooibos tea. If you are looking to purchase premium quality teas, you can find the best selection in our store.