‘T’ is for Tea: What all the acronyms in tea grades mean

Another occasional unrelated to (herbal) tea article 😀 This time is about acronyms / jargon used in caffeine tea world. Not hurt to swipe your eyes through the list quickly.

Ever wondered what all the different letters of the alphabet in your tea packaging stand for?

These acronyms are ‘grading terms’ to give extra information about the tea. The grades give vital information about the quality of the tea leaf and can be a helpful guide when buying teas. The quality of the tea leaves is graded based on size, shape and wholesomeness of the leaves. Although it is not the only indicator, it is a good guide to help buyers understand what they can expect from the tea including strength, taste and aroma. 

The grading system

OP: Orange Pekoe
FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP 1: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One
FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP 1: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One
SFTGFOP: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 

Understanding the terms

ORANGE PEKOE – is the tea industry’s term for describing the quality of tea leaves. The word is derived from the Dutch word ‘oranje’ (royal) and ‘pak-ho’ (Chinese for white) or the colour of the fine young shoots. 

TIPPY – signifies the abundance of young buds. 

GOLDEN – refers to the gold hues in the tea leaves 

FINEST TIPPY GOLDEN – signifies that the tea has a high concentration of light-coloured tips. As a rule, the tips of the tea plant are the lightest shade because of the absence of sap. 

FLOWERY – indicates the tender delicate buds picked with the tea.

The Number 1 at the end of the classification – refers to the delicate operation used to pick the tea: usually 1 bud to 2 leaves. Coarser leaves are left behind on the plant. 

Applying it to organic Darjeeling Tea

The highest quality of Darjeeling Tea is FTGFOP1 or Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1.

It refers to tea that has been carefully produced from even-sized leaves and tender tips. 

FTGFOP1 is only used to categorise whole leaf teas that are not crushed. It is the highest quality of the Darjeeling Tea family and therefore will have the most delicate taste and flavour. 

Credit: teacampaign.com.au

How To Identify Quality Tea

I know this is not really all about (herbal) tea. But I came across this article and I thought it worth to re-post here.

How To Identify Quality Tea

Whether you’re new to tea or have been sipping for years, it’s important to be able to identify high-quality loose leaf tea. Simply relying on four of your senses will help you on your path to becoming a tea connoisseur. Here’s what to note each step of the way.

Sight: Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of tea processing: CTC (cut, tear, curl) and Orthodox.

In the CTC method, tea leaves are sent through a machine that cuts, tears and curls them into small pellets. CTC processing is suitable for teabags and delivers a dark stong brew quickly, though sometimes at the expense of the more subtle aromas of tea.

In the Orthodox (or “long leaf”) method, tea leaves are delicately handled to ensure minimal breakage. Orthodox-prepared teas are rolled, preserving the leaves’ aromatic compounds and retaining the tea’s complex flavors. Therefore, high-quality loose leaf tea leaves should look, well, like tea leaves. Avoid loose leaf tea that looks crumbly or appears to contain a lot of stalks and woody fragments, as it will be less flavorful and complex. As you steep the tea, the leaves should unfurl slowly.

Touch: In general, high-quality dried tea leaves should feel how they look: smooth, whole and sturdy. It should also have a slight heft in your hands; if your tea feels feather-light, it may be an indication that it was over-dried or is getting old. High-quality loose leaf should not crumble or disintegrate with gentle handling. Steeped tea leaves should feel slippery and smooth to the touch.

Smell: No matter what kind it is, high-quality tea will have a distinct aroma. If you inhale deeply and are getting only trace amounts of scent, this could be a sign that the tea is low quality or getting old and stale. Green tea should smell grassy, light and fresh, while black tea should smell earthy, floral and sweet. When steeped, excellent tea should be deeply aromatic and amplify the unique scents of the dry tea leaves.

Taste: Great tea will have a strong, recognizable taste and mouthfeel. Sip slowly, allowing the tea to roll over different parts of your tongue; you should be able notice different flavor notes and mouthfeels. The best-tasting green tea will feel and taste smooth, bright and refreshing; while black tea has a deeper, more intense taste. Regardless of what type of tea you’re sipping, excellent tea will activate different flavor sensations on your tongue as you drink. Flavors that are barely noticeable, overly astringent or unpleasantly chemical-tasting are an indication that you are drinking low-quality or old tea.

Next time you sample a new tea, be sure to run through these four senses: sight, touch, smell and taste. The more tea you’re able to try, the easier it will become to tell high-quality tea apart from lesser options.

Credit: pureleaf.com