What are tea grades and why are they important? Be Tea-Smart ! - Coco & Cali

What are tea grades and why are they important? Be Tea-Smart !

We come across tins and tea pouches at the tea shop or supermarkets, that are labelled with BOP, OP, TGFOP letters and we wonder what's that? Let's be tea-smart and get to know how important they are when you are buying good quality teas.
BOP, OP, TGFOP, GFOP, SFTGFOP... These confusing array of letters are the tea grades, which defines the quality of tea leaves. Grading is based on the 'size' of the individual leaves and flushes. The size and wholeness of the leaves is likely to have a big influence on the taste, clarity, and brewing time of the tea. The higher grades are the ones which are closest in wholeness and size to a perfect leaf. 
There's no one universal grading system. They vary from country to country. Grades are only applied to black teas from certain countries. The most widely used grading terms are applied to teas produced in India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia and Europe.
Some of the most common terms for whole leaf teas are:
OP: Orange Pekoe
FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP1: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One
FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP1: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One
SFTGFOP: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
SFTGFOP1: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One

For broken leaves, the letter "B" is added to the name as in BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe), FBOP, GBOP, TGBOP, etc.
For smaller grades used in teabags, fanning and dust grades are used, for instance: OF, OPF, FBOPF, FD, GD.
If you are looking for a black tea or breakfast style blend, then you should go for a broken tea, look for the "B" in the grade. However, if you look for a mellow, soft and sweet black tea then pick the ones with an F or G letter. "F" stands for Flowery, meaning that the tea has buds and "G" stands for Golden, which denotes the higher proportion of buds on the tea. One with high quantity of buds will provide such an experience.
Let's get back to our question, why are they important ? Leaf grades help to understand how the leaves look like and what to expect from them regarding the strength, aroma, sweetness. These acronyms and their meanings provide a lot of information about the tea itself, very useful when it comes to choosing a tea profile.
When brewing, flavour and colour come out of the larger leaves more slowly than out of the broken and fine grades. The broken grades, which make up about 80 percent of the total black tea crop, produce a stronger, darker and liquor like flavour than whole leaf teas.
Black teas are made up of rolled and oxidised leaf, a perfect unbroken leaf is hardly expected. 
We hope this article helps you in choosing the right tea for yourself. 
Happy Tea Sipping !!
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