What Exactly is Orange Pekoe?
The process of grading and evaluating black tea leaves is based on quality and processing conditions. Whole-leaf teas are the highest quality, after which we have broken leaves, fannings and then tea dusts.
If you’re new to the world of whole leaf teas, you may not be familiar with the word ‘Orange Pekoe’. Or you may have heard of it in the past and considered it to be either an orange flavoured or coloured tea.
‘Orange Pekoe’ is a classification of Black tea reserved for the best whole leaf teas and is based on the origin of the leaf(leaf’s size and its location on the tea plant.)
If you’re anything like me, you would be curious to know where exactly did these two words Orange and Pekoe come from and how did they end up being associated with a classification of tea.
Though there is no documented evidence to prove the same, it is believed that in the 1600s, the Dutch Royal Family of the House of Orange brought this tea to Europe. They reserved the best grade of black tea for the royals. When it was later introduced into the market, vendors preferred to call it ‘orange’ pekoe, thus associating themselves with royalty!
Pekoe or ‘pek-ho’ on the other hand is Chinese for white down - a term commonly used amongst tea growers and tea traders to describe young leaf shoots bearing white down ( fine hair ) . These hairs are present on the smallest and youngest leaves of the plant. Hence, to be classified as orange pekoe tea, the leaves must be made up entirely of the new flushes( the leaf bud plucked with two youngest leaves), indicating that younger the pluck, better the tea.
Thus Orange Pekoe(OP), a world-adapted black tea grading system came about and it is further broken down into specific subgrades, such as flowery orange pekoe, golden flowery orange pekoe, tippy golden flowery orange pekoe and finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe.
At Tea Trunk, all our tea blends comprise of the highest quality whole leaf teas to ensure that you enjoy good tea as it should be, with every single cup.