Grading Tea Leaves

The Tea Grading process begins with the plucking of tea bushes. 

At the end of the tea manufacturing process, tea leaves are sorted and given a grade or classification. Orange Pekoe (OP) in the tea industry, is a term to describe a basic, medium-grade black tea with many whole leaves of a specific size. Higher grade tea leaves are referred to as "orange pekoe", the lowest grades are called "fannings" or "dust". The teas that receive the highest grades are from the new flushes (pickings). It includes the leaf bud along with a few of the youngest leaves. 

Fannings are small pieces of tea left over after the higher grade teas are gathered. These are treated as rejects of the manufacturing process. Fannings with very small particles are called dusts. The fannings and dust are typically used in most tea bags. However, the fannings or dust of high-end whole leaf teas can be more expensive and more flavorful than whole leaves of a cheaper tea. Although, the fannings and dust are treated as lower quality, they have experienced a huge demand in the last century because drinking tea has become more popular around the world. There are many other grades of tea, here are the most common classifications. 

Tea is also graded by region. Each tea-growing region produces tea with a specific flavor profile and characteristic unique to that particular region. Darjeeling tea offers distinctive characteristics of quality and flavor, and have a global reputation for producing the best tea around the world, also known as the "champagne of teas". Tea from China is sold under names that describe their appearance and style. Silver Needle, the highest grade of white tea, is named because of it's long, flat, needle-like shape covered in a silver-white down. Japan follows a similar grading system, they categorize tea based on style, leaf shape and production method, such as Sencha, a steamed fresh green tea with a rich, thick and grassy flavor. 


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