Grading Black Teas from India and Sri Lanka

Most find that 1st Flush Darjeeling SFTGFOP-1 is an excellent and memorable tea, but its full name is not quite as easy to remember. Are all those letters actually significant? And what do they mean?

Each of these letters are used in the Indian grading system as an abbreviation for the physical characteristics of black tea leaves. The system starts from a center point of Orange Pekoe, which is easily misunderstood to connote orange flavoring but is not actually a flavor and has no oranges added. Rather, Orange Pekoe (OP) teas are whole leaf teas with no tippiness (abundance of tips). During the harvesting of the top two leaves and bud, some plucks may have a leaf bud that develops a golden hue during processing – hence the name ‘Golden.’ ‘Flowery’ typically connotes a slightly more open or broader leaf than OP, with a crimped appearance that reminds one of a crushed flower petal.

Use this grading system to help you understand what those letters mean:
SFTGFOP-1 = Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – Grade 1
SFTGFOP = Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP = Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP = Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe FOP = Flowery Orange Pekoe
OP = Orange Pekoe
BOP = Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP = Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe TGBOP = Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe BOPF = Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings BOPD = Broken Orange Pekoe Dust

For normal commerce, the TGFOP grades are generally recognized as the largest and fanciest grades of tea. But the grade of 1 is sometimes added to further define better grades of teas among similar teas. A letter ‘F’ may also be added to the designated letters to indicate a finer grade. ‘SF’ is added to indicate a super fine grade. Thus, SFTGFOP1 is a Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – grade 1.

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