Types and Grades of Tea
Loose tea lets you see, smell and even hold the leaves that provide the flavor you enjoy. With a small investment of time to learn about tea, your cup of tea becomes more personal and engaging, deepening your enjoyment of an experience that has captivated cultures.
Types of Tea
Black Tea - Black teas are produced by subjecting the freshly plucked leaves of Camellia sinensis to a process of withering, rolling and drying. This processing oxidizes the leaf and allows many unique aroma and flavor elements to form. Black teas can be malty, floral, biscuity, smoky, brisk, fragrant and full-bodied. The robustness of black tea lends itself to the addition of sugar, honey, lemon, cream and milk. While black teas have more caffeine than green or white teas, they still have less than you would get in a cup of coffee. We source our black tea directly from the key tea-growing regions throughout the world, including China, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Chai Tea - Chai is a special flavored tea beverage created in India. Traditional chai is a strong black tea infused with aromatic Indian spices, including black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and others. Chai contains caffeine levels similar to black tea.
Green Tea - Green tea is uncured and possesses fresh, grassy, vegetal flavors due to the unique processing. Green tea leaves are plucked, withered, rolled and dried before any curing or oxidation takes place. Green teas have the least caffeine of all true teas (Camellia sinensis).
Oolong Tea - Oolong is only partially oxidized after the fresh leaves are plucked and withered. Before the leaves are fully cured, a quick drying preserves the flavor and aroma elements of the green leaf and combines them with black tea characteristics that arise from the partial curing. Oolong has slightly less caffeine than black tea, but slightly more than green teas.
White Tea - White tea is made from the very young, unfurled leaf tips of Camellia sinensis. The delicate young leaves and buds are covered with soft, silvery white hairs…thus “white” tea. White teas are generally uncured in the style of green teas and are similarly very low in caffeine.
Herbal Teas (TISANES) - Beverages brewed from herbs (or combinations of herbs) other than Camellia sinensis are technically "tisanes", but are commonly referred to as "herbal teas." The herbs are blended to create unique flavors and/or desired health benefits. Herbal teas do not contain caffeine, and have extra layers and nuances of flavor that are not attainable with true tea. These teas can be refreshing, calming, invigorating — or simply a delight to the senses.
Grades of Tea
Tea grading is based on the size of the leaf and types of leaves included in the tea. Though leaf size is an important quality factor, it is not, by itself, a guarantee of quality.
Teas are often designated as OP or FOP.
These designations are part of the grading system used for whole leaf black teas and refer to the leaf size and amount of tip in the tea. Pekoe means teas picked as 2 leaves and a bud. OP, or Orange Pekoe, is a full-leaf tea with no tip or buds. FOP, or Flowery Orange Pekoe, is a longer leaf than an OP and has some buds. Grading systems and terminology vary with tea type and country. Generally, the more whole the leaf is and the more buds it contains, the higher the grade of tea.
Black Tea Leaf Grades
P - Pekoe - smaller, shorter leave than OP
OP - Orange Pekoe - long, thin, tightly rolled leaves
FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe - longer leaf than an OP but not as tightly rolled
GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - FOP with some golden tips
TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - GFOP with more golden tips
FTGFOP - Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe - Better quality TGFOP teas
BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe - OP leaves that are broken
FBOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe - FOP leaves that are broken
Green Tea Grades
There is no uniform grading system for green teas, but the better quality green consists of a leaf and bud, then two leaves and a bud and so on. Some common green tea leaf terms are:
Gunpowder: (also called Pearl tea) young leaves and buds are rolled tightly into pellets which unfurl in the cup. Imperial: loosely rolled pellets made from older leaves. Young Hyson: young leaves rolled long and thin.