What is Orange Pekoe Tea?

Posted on February 28, 2021, by in .

Close up of Ceylon Orange Pekeo tea

One of the most common teas people come looking for in our shop is ‘Orange Pekoe Tea’, but what kind of tea is it?

Contray to popular belief Orange Pekoe is not a type of tea, nor does it mean that the tea has any orange flavouring in it! It in fact refers to the grading of the leaf – in this case that it is a large leaf tea. This misunderstanding often comes from supermarket brands calling some of their tea blends Orange Pekoe without any further explaination about where the tea has come from or what the name refers to!
An Orange Pekeo tea could refer to a single estate tea or to a blend of various large leaf teas from different gardens within a growing region or even different countries. This means that you can find a wide variety of flavours and strengths rather than it simply being one specific tea. They also, differ greatly from the dust you would find in many tea bags as the large leaf offers exceptional quality!

The word Pekoe derives from the Chinese word pek-ho or baihao and refers to the covering of silver hairs on the underside of certain types of the tea bush. It is believed that ‘Orange’ comes from Holland’s ‘House of Orange’, who was the royal family of the first European country to import and re-export tea.

A Note on Tea Grading:

When tea is picked and subsequently sorted for selling is it seperated into different leaf sizes and qualities. Seperating the tea in this way ensures an even brew when making it. You may have seen a series of letters next to the name of your tea, especially if you’ve bought it from us! We like to ensure that as much information about our teas is given to help you make an informed choice!

Whole Leaf Tea Grades
OPOrange Pekoe – A large leaf tea that contains pointed leaves and has been harvested when the end buds are opening into leaves.
FOPFlowering Orange Pekoe – Tea made from the end bud and the first two leaves of each new shoot. An FOP will contain fine, tender, young leaves that guarentee quality. They will generally be smaller than Orange Pekeo grade leaves.
GFOPGolden Flowering Orange Pekoe – An FOP with ‘golden tips’ (unopened buds).
TGFOPTippy Golden Flowering Orange Pekoe – This is a tea with a higher proportion of ‘golden tips’ (unopened buds) than an GFTOP.
FTGFOPFinest Tippy Golden Flowering Orange Pekeo – One of the highest grades available – it indictates a high amount of golden tips as well as exceptional quality. Our Darjeeling teas are often this grade, such as our Darjeeling 1st Flush Happy Valley.

This tea grading system is used primarily in India, Sri Lanka and other orthadox tea producing countries like Kenya and Rwanda.

Oftentimes loose leaf breakfast teas are made from broken leaf grades known as CTC (cut, tear, curl). This method is often used as a way to strengthen the tea so that it goes well with milk or sugar without creating the powdery bitterness that you find with teabag dust or fannings. Our best selling Assam Manglam tea is one of these teas and is the perfect strong breakfast tea that we in England just can’t get enough of!

Our Orange Pekoe teas!

Assam OP Cherideo Purbat – A high quality large leaf tea grown on the Cherideo Purbat tea estate in Assam, India and imported directly by us! We have selected this superb tea for its deep red infusion which is rich and smooth with a very refreshing aftertaste. This is strongest orange pekeo grade tea we offer and goes well with milk.

Ceylon OP Dimbula Uduwela – Our best selling Ceylon Tea! There can be no doubt when looking at this tea that it is a large leaf! This delicious single estate tea is grown 1400m above sea level. The infusion gives a rich brown colour with a sweet, smooth and well-balanced flavour reminscent of warm honey.

Ceylon OP Nuwara Eliya – A refreshing Ceylon tea with a slightly citrus like aroma. The liquor (infusion) is orange-brown with a sweetness reminiscent of forest honey with a mild smoky finish. The Nuwara Eliya tea growing region is the highest growing area in Sri Lanka at 2,100m above sea level and is sometimes referred to as Sri Lankas ‘Champagne of Teas’.

Rwanda Rukeri OP – This tea comes from the Rukei garden, that lies near the town of Kinihira in the Northern Province. It is the largest tea garden in Rwanda. The large leaves produce a dark reddish infusion with a smooth fruity taste.

Example of Orange Pekeo tea vs CTC tea