Ceylon Tea as we now know comes in different varieties, which has flavors and aromas unique to itself. Along with the a variety of teas, there are varieties of grades that Ceylon tea has been separated into. The grading of tea does not affect the flavors and aromas or the quality for that matter, it is a mere indication of the size and appearance of the tea leaf that is manufactured.
Ceylon Tea is basically dived into two categories;
1) Whole leaf grades, which has been a consistent form of grading throughout the years.
The Orange Pekoe (OP) grades are for the whole leaf traditional black tea.
2) Broken Leaf Grades, which are commonly used among consumers these days. A popular choice among tea lovers.
Terminology of Grades
Fannings– These are the leftovers of the manufacturing process, in which high quality tea leaves are produced such as the Orange Pekoe. This low quality tea has experienced a high demand during the last century as drinking tea became a popular habit.
Flowery– this grading consists of larger leaves, that are typically plucked in their second or third flush, and tips are scarcely present. These grades fetch high prices in the international markets, and are expensive to produce.
The Whole Leaf grades are divide into these categories:
OP or Orange Pekoe– This is the highest and main grade of tea produced. This comes as a whole leaf which is wiry, long and thin in character. Its flavor when brewed is of a delicate fragrance and tastes exquisitely delicious. The color of the tea comes to a light pale color.
Pekoe– This grade consists of leaves that are short and not so wiry as OP, once its brewed has a hint of bitterness and a sweet finish to its flavor, and its rich in color.
OPA or Orange Pekoe A– This grade has a long, bold leaf which varies from tightly wound to almost open at times. The color of the liquor is much lighter and has a mild flavor to it.
OP 1 or Orange Pekoe 1– This grade has a delicate, long, wiry leaf. It has a light liquor and the a refined taste that adds to its high quality and rich color.
Broken Leaf Grades
BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe- This grade is the main in the broken range, an is one of the sought after grades. They are a well made neat leaf of a medium size. The flavor of the tea once brewed is rich and fresh and also has a brighter color to it
BOPF or Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings- This is one of the most common grade in Sri Lanka. Its characteristics include a neat, and fairly clear tea leaf which is smaller in size than the BOP. Its bright in color once brewed and has richness to its flavor.
FBOP or Flower Broken Orange Pekoe- These eaves are more coarse and broken and includes tips, they are smaller and shorter than BOP 1and has a soft taste to it. Its bright in color and rather flavorsome.
BOP 1 or Broken Orange Pekoe 1- This grade has leaves which are wiry and medium in length. They are golden in color with mild and malty flavor to it. Its one of the best tasting teas in the broken range.
FBOPF or Flowery Broken Pekoe Fannings– This is one of the best grades in the Fannings range. It is smaller in size similar to that of BOPF, it has a reasonable amount of tips and is bright in color. It has a rich flavor along with a freshness.
FBOPF 1 or Flower Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings 1- The leaves of this particular grade are larger in size to that of BOP, and it contains a rather low amount of tips. When brewed it has a sweet flavor to it.
In addition to the above, there are “Flowery” variants of the main grades. These teas posses a spectacular quality to it. These grades garner higher prices in the international markets and are very costly to produce as they sort the tips by hand.
These are some of the most commonly found grades in Ceylon tea, note however that these grades differ where Green Tea and White Tea is concerned. Each grade has a uniqueness to it self, the flavors and aromas differ in each grade, all this helps you to have a wonderful experience in drinking tea.