Tea Grades

Black Tea Grading

In the tea industry, tea leaf grading is the process of evaluating products based on the quality and condition of the tea leaves themselves. The highest grades are referred to as "orange pekoe", and the lowest as "fannings" or "dust".

Pekoe tea grades are classified into various qualities, each determined by how many of the adjacent young leaves (two, one, or none) were picked along with the leaf buds. Top-quality pekoe grades consist of only the leaf buds, which are picked using the balls of the fingertips. Fingernails and mechanical tools are not used to avoid bruising.

When crushed to make bagged teas, the tea is referred to as "broken", as in "broken orange pekoe" (BOP). These lower grades include fannings and dust, which are tiny remnants created in the sorting and crushing processes.

Orange pekoe is referred to as "OP". The grading scheme also contains categories higher than OP, which are determined primarily by leaf wholeness and size.

Broken, fannings and dust orthodox teas have slightly different grades. CTC teas, which consist of leaves mechanically rendered to uniform fannings, have yet another grading system.

Whole leaf grades

SFTGFOP(1) - sometimes used to indicate the very finest

Finest TGF OP - highest quality grade (Note: "Special" is occasionally substituted for "Finest", with a number 1 at the end to indicate the very finest), often hand processed and produced at only the best plantations, roughly one quarter tips

TGF OP1 - as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the TGFOP classification

Tippy Golden F OP - the highest proportion of tip, main grade in Darjeeling and Assam

Golden Flowery OP1 - higher proportion of tip than FOP top grade in Milima and Marinyn regions, uncommon in Assam and Darjeeling

F OP1 - as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the FOP classification

Flowery OP - high-quality tea with a long leaf and few tips, considered the second grade in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh teas, but the first grade in China

OP Superior - primarily from Indonesia, similar to OP

OP - main grade, in the middle between OP1 and OPA, can consist of long wiry leaf without tips

OPA - bold, long leaf tea which ranges from tightly wound to almost open

OP1 - slightly delicate, long, wiry leaf with the light liquor

Broken leaf grades

TGF BOP1 - Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1: High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips. Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam.

GF BOP1 - Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1: As above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the GFBOP classification.

G BOP - Golden Broken Orange Pekoe: Second grade tea with uneven leaves and few tips.

F BOP F - Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery: The finest broken orange pekoe. Higher proportion of tips. Mainly from Ceylon's "low districts".

F BOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken.

BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe: Main broken grade. Prevalent in Assam, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Southern India, Java, and China.

FP - Flowery Pekoe: High-quality pekoe. Usually coarser with a fleshier, broken leaf. Produced in Ceylon(Sri Lanka) and Southern India, as well as in some parts of Kenya.

BPS - Broken Pekoe Souchong: Term for broken pekoe in Assam and Darjeeling.

BP - Broken Pekoe: Most common broken pekoe grade. From Indonesia, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Assam and Southern India.

BT - Broken Tea: Usually a black, open, fleshy leaf that is very bulky. Classification used in Sumatra, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), and some parts of Southern India.

Fannings grades

BOPF - Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings: Main grade in Ceylon, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and China. Black-leaf tea with few added ingredients, uniform particle size, and no tips.

TGFOF - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings.

GFOF - Golden Flowery Orange Fannings: Finest grade in Darjeeling for tea bag production.

FOF - Flowery Orange Fannings: Common in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.

OF - Orange Fannings: From Northern India and some parts of Africa and South America.

PF - Pekoe Fannings

Dust grades

PD1 - Pekoe Dust 1: Mainly produced in India.

PD - Pekoe Dust

D1 - Dust 1: From Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Africa, South America, and Southern India.