The terms used in the grading and classification of tea, while less obtuse than those for wine are still filled with lots of amusing sounding terms and eight -letter contractions.

The most basic division is by the colour of the leaf. This depends on the level of fermentation.

Further classification of black tea is by the shape and size of the tea leaf. This is mainly based on the methods of processing that are used and which parts of the leaf are included. There are four basic classifications of leaf size, which are then subdivided in more specific categories. The basic class of leaf is Orange Pekoe. The word pekoe (pronounced peck-oh) is derived from the Chinese word pak-Ho, meaning down and refers to the downy hairs on the tip of a tea bud. Orange is a reference to the Dutch Royal House of Orange and dates from the times of the Dutch East Indies.

Whole Leaf


Short, medium grade leaves with none of the best tips.

Orange Pekoe (OP)

Usually from Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it is still called when referring to tea, and also from much of southern India. These are the largest rolled leaves. Contains few tips, which are considered the finest part of the leaf.

Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP)

The largest tea grade in the rest of India, though smaller than OP and with some tips.

Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP)

Like FOP, but with golden tips, which are the finest tips of the yellow bud.

Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP)

Like GFOP, but wise a larger proportion of golden tips

Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP)

Logically, this is GFOP of exceptional quality.

Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe / Supreme Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP)

Yup, this stuff is even better. It is mostly golden tips and can be assumed to be of exceptional quality...and price. When referring to Darjeeling (as it often does), the Supreme refers to the supremely light colour of the brewed tea.

Flowery Pekoe (FP)

These leaves are rolled into balls.

Souchong (S)

Large leaves that are rolled lengthways. Often used in chinese smoked teas, such as Lapsang Souchong.

Pekoe Souchong (PS)

Shorter, coarser leaves

Broken Leaf

The addition of the word Broken to the above classifications indicates that they are based on leaves that are broken. Funnily enough. For example:

Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP)
Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (GBOP)
Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP)
Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (TGBOP)
Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (GFBOP)
Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (TGFBOP)


These are smaller in size than broken leaves. They brew quickly.


The smallest size of broken leaf. These make a very quick cup of tea and are used in tea bags.

In reference to the large leaf classifications, some experts use a number 1 as a suffix to indicate first class quality: exceptional for its class.