Tea Grade and Quality

 

TEA GRADING

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Tea grading is an accepted method of classifying tea and relates to the quality of the tea leaves. Tea grading facilitates the international trade in tea and is the central component in assessing the value in the various types of tea.

SIZE OF THE LEAVES

Whole, large tea leaves obtain higher grading.Two main factors which affect the grading of tea: Classifying tea into grades is an important tool for tea experts in their task to evaluate and compare the different varieties of tea grown and manufactured around the world. The accepted methods of grading tea relate to the grading of Black tea only.

PRODUCTION METHODS 

There are 2 traditional methods of manufacturing tea:

1. By hand

2. Crush, Tear and Curl "CTC" - The modern mechanized method process. The CTC method is considered to be an approach that is damaging to the tea leaves and as a result, bear a lower grading of the tea leaves.

As opposed to Black tea, the Green tea and Oolong tea do not have a single accepted method of grading. Within these latter two categories of tea, there exists a wide range of grading systems and these differ by tea grower, tea growing region, and so forth. These tea grading methods are dependent and based on factors different from those that affect the grading of Black tea. Specifically, these factors are based on the variety of the tea plant, the region and terroir, as well as, the stage when the plucking of tea leaves take place.  The grading of Green tea and Oolong tea indicate the taste and quality of the tea. 

TEA GRADES

DUST "D"  

Consisting of small pieces of tea leaves and tea dust and also the lowest grade in the classification of Black tea.

FANNING "F" 

Classified as a low grade and consists mainly of tea leaf pieces.

BROKEN ORANGE PEKOE“BOP”

Considered a medium grade for tea leaf classification and is a mixture of small tea leaves and pieces of large Leaves.

ORANGE PEKOE OP” 

Large, whole tea leaves picked without the flower bud of the tea plant.

FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE “FOP” 

These are the whole tea leaves together with the flowering tea plant.

In addition to the 5 main tea categories, there are 2 further important qualities or traits:

GOLDEN 

where gold hues occur in the tea leaves evidencing their quality and;

TIPPYWHICH 

signifies an abundance of young tea buds.

GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE “GFOP” 

Whole, young tea leaves with golden tips and complemented by the flowers of the tea plant.The following classifications relate to choice tea consisting of whole leaves and complemented by one of the above traits:

TIPPY GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE “TGFOP”

The highest category in tea grades and consists of the tea bud and two uppermost leaves of the tea plant complemented by the flowers of the tea plant.

FINE TIPPY GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE “FTGFOP” 

For choice tea leaves.

SUPER FINE TIPPY GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE “SFTGFOP” 

Highest existing grade for tea leaves.

 

TEA QUALITY

In the evaluation of tea quality, tea experts give consideration to the teas' variety, region grown, stage when the teas are picked and its’ manufacturing process. Two further tests help determine the quality and taste of the tea brew:    

THE SCIENTIFIC TEST

A critical assessment in 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 in the quality of the tea by way of the senses: the taste, the aroma, how the leaves feel to the touch, and the appearance of the tea. This includes the shape, size and color of the leaves. This sensory test is a subjective evaluation of the tea quality, and derives from the knowledge and experience of the tea tasting experts. The sensory test is still the most widely accepted means of evaluating the quality of tea. 

TYPES OF CHOICE TEA

DARJEELING 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, prestige and exclusivity. 

ASSAM TEA

The Assam region sprawls along the two sides of the mighty Brahmaputra River in North Eastern India and the area where the largest amount of tea is grown in the world. Assam black tea excels in 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 region in South Western India. Nilgiri tea leaves are dark and from them the golden tea infusions produced 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 high sums of money.

EARL GREY TEA

Earl Grey Tea is not a variety of tea but is blended from black teas and seasoned. 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.  In the 18th century A.D., black tea drinking was a widespread custom of the British nobility. Only the rich could drink tea due to its high price and the nobility would show off their wealth by inviting friends to parties that featured tea drinking paired with light meals. At these parties Earl Grey tea gained honor. Known as the first seasoned tea produced in history, Earl Grey tea has enjoyed the status of the most famous seasoned tea in the world.

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