The grade names which follow are an indication of size and/or appearance of Ceylon Teas) and NOT of its quality. Ceylon teas are divided into two groups:
(1) the Leaf grades such as were originally made by the Ceylon pioneers, and
(2) the smaller Broken grades which are in style today.
Leaf grades are usually divided into:
- Orange Pekoe (O.P)
- Pekoe (Pek.)
- Souchong (Sou.)
Broken grades are divided into:
- Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P.)
- Broken Pekoe (B.P.)
- Broken Pekoe Souchong (B.P.S.)
- Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (B.O.P.F.)
- Dust (D.)
- Pekoe Dust (PD)
The grades may be described as follows:
- O.P. -- Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain tip. The liquors are light or pale in color.
- Pek. -- The leaves of this grade are shorter and not so wiry as O.P., but the liquors generally have more color.
- Sou. -- A bold and round leaf, with pale liquors.
- B.O.P. -- This grade is one of the most sought after. It is much smaller than any of the leaf grades and contains tip. The liquors have good color and strength.
- B.P. -- Slightly larger than B.O.P., with rather less color in the cup; useful primarily as a filler in a blend.
- B.P.S -- A little larger that B.P. and in consequence lighter in the cup, but also used as filler in a blend.
- B.O.P.F. -- This grade also is much sought after, especially in the U.K., and fetches high prices. It is much smaller than B.O.P. and its main virtues are quick brewing, with good color in the cup.
In addition, there are various “Flowery” variants of the main grades (e.g., F.O.P and F.B.O.P.) the nature of which I will describe slightly farther down.
Only a small quantity of the Leaf and Flowery grades is produced in Ceylon.
Pekoe and Orange
"Pekoe" is derived from the Chinese word "pak-Ho" meaning hair or down relating to the light white down on the bud leaves.
One explanation for the Orange half of the name is that the Chinese sometimes used Orange blossoms to flavor these leaves. Another suggests that it is a remaining reference to the Netherlands House of Orange.