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” (OP), 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.
The very best tea grades are:
Flowery OP (FOP)
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.
FOP1—as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the FOP classification
Golden Flowery OP1 (GFOP1)
Higher proportion of tip than FOP. Top grade in Milima and Marinyn regions, uncommon in Assam and Darjeeling.
Tippy Golden FOP (TGFOP)
The highest proportion of tip, main grade in Darjeeling and Assam.
TGFOP1—as above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the TGFOP classification.
Finest TGFOP (FTGFOP)
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.
SFTGFOP(1)—sometimes used to indicate the very finest
Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP)
Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken.
Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery (FBOPF)
The finest broken orange pekoe. Higher proportion of tips. Mainly from Ceylon’s “low districts”.
Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (GBOP)
Second grade tea with uneven leaves and few tips.
Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 (GFBOP1)
As above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the GFBOP classification.
Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 (TGFBOP1)
High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips. Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam.
Flowery Orange Fannings (FOF)
Common in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.
Golden Flowery Orange Fannings (GFOF)
Finest grade in Darjeeling for tea bag production.
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings (TGFOF)
Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (BOPF)
Main grade in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and China. Black-leaf tea with few added ingredients, uniform particle size, and no tips.