So when dealing with teas, there are certain abbreviations when describing the size of the tea leaf. The terms mainly go off of OP, or Orange Pekoe. You probably have seen the term Orange Pekoe on boxes of tea at supermarkets, but have you ever wondered what in the world it means? No? Well do you want to know? You do? Great!!!
Orange Pekoe is a classification of black tea based upon the origin of the leaf. To be classified as pekoe, the tea must be composed purely of the new flushes – a flush being the flower bud plucked with two youngest leaves.
The term Orange Pekoe (pronounced “Pea-Koe”) has nothing to do with the taste of orange.
It is believed that the term Orange refers to the Dutch noble House of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch having had a central role in bringing tea to Europe. The origin of the word Pekoe is also not definitively known, though a popular explanation is that it is derived from the Chinese word “Bai Hwa”, which means “White Flower”, referring to the flower bud content of the tea.
When crushed to make bagged teas, the tea is referred to as “broken”, as in “Broken Orange Pekoe” (or “Broken Pekoe”), sometimes sold as loose leaf for reduced price. Bagged teas often also include fannings and dust, which are simply tiny remnants of the sorting and/or crushing process.
Orange Pekoe is often referred to as “OP”; the grading scheme contains several other categories considered to be of higher quality than OP. The grades for whole leaf orthodox black tea, in ascending order are:
OP (Orange Pekoe)
FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe)
GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)