Like the wine ratings scale, tea has grade levels. If you see random letter groupings at the tea shop you know you’ve got a good supplier that understands higher quality teas. The different tea grades are (from lowest to highest):
Dust: Break open your average lipton tea bag and you’ll see what this means.
Fannings: Broken leaves.
P – Pekoe: Attributed origin is words meaning “white” & “down” from a Chinese dialect. This is whole leaf tea.
OP – Orange Pekoe: A slightly misleading name. This is your basic medium grade black tea. It’s not orange flavored or orange colored. The tea is named after Dutch royalty, the House of Orange. Paving the way for modern marketing, the Dutch East India Company wanted to associate their tea with the celebrity of the royal family, so they added “orange” to “pekoe.” Their strategy worked and made orange pekoe tea very popular. Like I said, it’s misleading.
FOP – Flowery Orange Pekoe: Only the bud and top two leaves from each branch. The only way to get this? By hand.
GFOP – Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: Certain leaves have a golden tip indicating a higher quality.
TGFOP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: Higher proportion of tips.
FTGFOP – Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.
SFTGFOP—Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.
Some say that “FTGFOP” stands for “Far Too Good For Ordinary People”.