Tea grading begins with the plucking of tea leaves from the camellia senensis shrub. After the plucking, the manufacturing process begins. The tea leaves are sorted and then given a grade or classification. 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. Orange Pekoe (OP) in the tea industry, is a term to describe a medium-grade black tea with many whole leaves of a specific size.
The lowest grading of tea are called "fannings" or "dust". Fannings are small pieces of the tea leaves left over after the higher grade tea leaves are gathered. They are treated as rejects of the manufacturing process. Fannings with very small particles are called dusts. Both grades are typically used in most tea bags, and steep quickly. Although, the fannings, and dust are treated as lower quality, there has been a huge demand in the last century for this grade since drinking loose leaf tea has become more popular around the world.
Tea is also graded by region. Each tea-growing region produces a tea with a specific flavor profile and characteristic unique to that particular region.
India produces a high quality tea with a distinct characteristic, and it has a global reputation for its darjeeling tea. The first spring, second summer, and autumnal harvest flushes are exquisite and popularly referred to as the "champagne of tea".
China tea is typically named by its appearance and style. Silver Needle, the highest grade of white tea gets its name because of its long, flat, needle-like leaf 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 grassy flavor.
Here are common terms used to grade Tea.
Enjoy your time with tea!