The Grading Of Tea

How Is Tea Graded?

The grading of tea is an accepted method of classifying the tea and it relates to the quality of the tea leaves.
The grading of tea facilitates the international trade in tea and is the central component in the assessing of a money value for the various types of tea
This classifying of tea into grades is an important tool for the tea experts in their task of making evaluations and comparisons between the different varieties of tea that are grown and manufactured throughout the world. The accepted methods of grading tea relate to the grading of Black tea only.

The two main factors which affect the grading of tea are:
1. The size of the tea leaves: Whole, large tea leaves gain a higher grading
2. The method of production of the tea: There are 2 methods of manufacturing tea. Manufacturing of tea and these are the traditional method of production of tea by hand and the more modern mechanized method which is aptly called the CTC process (Crush, Tear and Curl). It is considered that the mechanized method damages the tea leaves and as a result the tea leaves bear a lower grading.

In respect of Green tea and Oolong tea, as opposed to black tea, no single accepted method of grading has been developed. For these teas there exists a whole range of grading systems and these differ from tea grower to tea grower, from tea growing region to tea growing region and so on. These tea grading methods are based on and depend on factors different from those that affect the grading of Black tea . The grading of Green tea and Oolong tea is affected by factors such as the variety of the tea plant , the region and area in which the tea was grown and the stage at which the picking of the tea leaves took place. The grading of Green tea and Oolong tea indicate the taste and quality of the tea.

The Grades Of Tea

There are five main grades for classifying tea and these are:
Dust –D This is the lowest grade in the classification of Black tea. Actually it consists of small pieces of tea leaves and tea dust.
Fanning This consists mainly of pieces of tea leaves. It is a low grade.
BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe This consists of small tea leaves or pieces of large Leaves.
It is considered a medium grading for the classification of tea leaves.
OP - Orange Pekoe This consists of large, whole tea leaves picked without the flower bud of the tea plant.
FOP – Flowery Orange Pekoe These are the whole tea leaves together with the flowering tea plant.

In addition to the five main categories of tea there are two further important qualities or traits and these are Golden where gold hues occur in the tea leaves evidencing their quality and Tippy which signifies an abundance of young tea buds.
The following classifications relate to choice tea consisting of whole leaves and complemented by one of the above traits:

GFOP Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe These are whole, young tea leaves whose tips are golden and are complemented by the flowers of the tea plant.

TGFOP Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe This consists of the tea bud and two uppermost leaves of the tea plant complemented by the flowers of the tea plant. This is the highest category in the grading of tea. However in this highest grading of tea leaves there are also two further quality refinements marking the best of the best:

FTGFOP Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe for choice tea leaves

SFTGFOP Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe which is the highest existing grade for tea leaves.

The Quality Of The Tea

In evaluating the quality of tea, the tea experts give consideration to the variety of tea, the region where the tea was grown, the stage of picking of the leaves and the tea manufacturing process.

Two further tests help in determining the quality and the taste of the tea brew and these are:

The Scientific Test:
A critical assessment of the quality of the tea by chemical and physical means such as an analysis of the chemical composition of the tea, use of the “electronic nose” and other tests.

The Sensory Test:
Classification of the quality of the tea by way of the senses – the taste, smell, the physical feel of the leaves to the touch, and the appearance of the tea which includes the shape, size and color of the leaves. This sensory test is a subjective evaluation of the quality of the tea and is the result of the knowledge and experience of the expert tea tasters

The sensory test is still the most widely accepted means of evaluating the quality of tea.

Types Of Choice Tea From Around Thw World

Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling tea is one of the types of tea considered to be of the highest quality, the tastiest and the most expensive. The origin of this tea is the Darjeeling region which is located in North -Western Bengal in India. The tea bushes grow on the high and steep slopes of the Himalaya Mountains and benefit from the warming mountain sunshine during the day, from lower temperatures during the night and from an abundance of rain. Darjeeling tea has a fine flowery aroma, a light body and a taste reminiscent of Muscatel. Sipping the tea causes a slight tingling feeling on the tongue and this is proof of its quality. Darjeeling Tea has been called the "champagne of tea" because of its rare quality and its prestige and exclusivity.

Assam Tea

The Assam regions sprawls along the two sides of the mighty Brahmaputra River in North-Eastern India and it is the area where the largest amount of tea is grown in the world. Assam black tea excels in its color, taste and strong aroma. Assam tea is especially suited for sipping in the morning with breakfast. It is largely used as a principal ingredient in blending popular teas such as English Breakfast Tea.

Nilgiri Tea

Nilgiri is a tea growing area in South - Western India. Nilgiri tea leaves are dark and from them the golden tea infusions are produced that have rich, fruity tastes and aromas.
Most of the Nilgiri tea is sold to meet the local Indian consumer demand, but the choicest selected yields of Nilgiri tea (the whole tea leaves) are traded on the world’s exchanges for huge sums of money.

Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey Tea is not a variety of tea but is blended from black teas and seasoned. It is named after the British diplomat Earl Charles Grey who customarily blended black tea leaves and seasoned them with the essence of Bergamot (a small acidic orange) in accordance with an ancient Chinese recipe which came into his hands. In the eighteenth century A.D. the drinking of black tea was a widespread custom of the British nobility. Only the rich could drink tea because of its high price and the nobility would show off their wealth by inviting friends to parties featuring tea drinking and the eating of light meals. At these parties Earl Grey tea gained a place of honor. As far as is known, Earl Grey tea is the first seasoned tea produced in history and it has enjoyed, to this very day, the status of the most famous seasoned tea in the world