During the process of production, Ceylon tea is manufactured in a variety of leaf sizes which are then sorted into various styles by sifting. These leaves then graded according to their sizes. The process of grading does not indicate the quality of tea or the flavors and aromas, it solely indicates the size and the appearance of the leaf that is manufactured. These grades range from large leafy teas such as Orange Pekoe to semi-leafy grades such as Flowery Pekoe and the standard grades such as BOP, BOP Fanning, and Dust grades. Below mentioned are the most common grades found and a description to understand the distinctions of the Grades.
The whole Leaf Grades are as follows:
OP or Orange Pekoe- This grade is the highest grade given to manufactured tea. The characteristics of the tea leaf appear long, wiry and thin. When brewed its flavor has a delicate fragrance and tastes wonderfully delicious and the liquors are light and pale in color.
Pekoe- The leaves of this grade differ from that of OP, its leaves are short and not as much wiry as OP, but it is a bit more twisted than OP. When brewed its flavor has a hint of bitterness along with a sweet finish and it is rich in color.
OPA or Orange Pekoe A- the characteristics of this grade consists of a leaf that is long and bold which varies from tightly wound to almost open. Its flavor is mild and the liquor is light in color.
OP1 or Orange Pekoe 1- The leaf of this grade is delicate, long and wiry. It contains a light liquor and a flavor of refined taste.
Broken Leaf Grades
BOP Or Broken Orange Pekoe-
This grade of tea is the most sought after. It is a well made, neat leaf of a medium size with and abundance of stalk and fiber. The flavor of the tea is rich and fresh and the liquor is bright in color.
BOPF or Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning-
This grade consists of a leaf that is rather smaller than BOP, it is also one of the most common grades found in Sri Lanka. The leaf is neat and fairly clear and has a richness to its flavor along with a liquor that is bright in color.
BOP 1 or Broken Orange Pekoe 1- The leaf of this grade is wiry and medium in length, it has a mild and malty flavor and is golden in color. This is one of the best tasting teas in the broken range.
FBOP or Flower Broken Orange Pekoe- The leaf is more coarse and broken and includes a fair amount of tips, they are shorter and smaller in size than BOP1, its bright in color and has a soft flavor to it.
FBOPF or Flower Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning-
Considered to be one of the best teas in the Fanning range, this grade consists of leaves that are smaller and similar in size to that of BOPF, it also contains a reasonable amount of tips and is bright in color. Its flavor is rich and fresh.
FBOPF1 or Flower Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning 1- This grade consists of leaves that are larger in size compared to BOP, it contains a low amount of tips and once brewed it has a sweet flavor to it.
PF1 or Pekoe Fanning 1- The leaf is the smaller size of the CTC (Crush, Tear and Curl) manufacturing process. The flavor is rather strong and is ideal for Tea Bags.
These are rather smaller than BOPF, they are fine granular particles that contains optimum strength and body, it is ideal for commercial brewing.
Silver Tips- This grade contains the finest buds that turn rather velvety once dried, they are a long tippy leaf and is silver in color and hardly contains any black leaf. Once brewed it has a very delicate flavor and is ideal for medicinal purposes.
These are the most well know grades of Ceylon Tea. Every grade has distinctive qualities to it. The “Flowery” variants of the main grades such as FBOPF or FBOP are well known to fetch higher prices in the international markets and are the most expensive to produce.