Know your Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe from your Fannings? Find out what’s behind the terminology used in grading tea...
DOES YOUR GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE OR FANNINGS MAKE THE GRADE?
Before the tea that makes your daily cup gets even close to the teabag or caddy, all kinds of sorting and grading has to happen. This is because when tea emerges from the drying machines at the end of the manufacturing process, it consists of a mixture of different sized pieces of leaf - all of which brew at different rates.
So to ensure an even brew, these particles must be sorted into different grades (or sizes). This is done either by hand or by passing the leaves though sifters with graduated mesh sizes to separate them out.
The resulting piles of tea are then classified according to size, type and appearance.
SHAPE & SIZE MATTERS
Classification systems vary from country to country. In China, teas are named by region, the time of year when the tea was picked, the method of manufacture, the leaf type used or the mystical legend behind the tea's origins.
For example - Chun Mee means Precious Eyebrows, inspired by the gently curved shape of the dried green leaves. Jiqu Wulong means Nine-Bend Stream Black Dragon. And Rose Congou refers to black tea skilfully made by hand and blended with dried pink rose petals.
QUALITY GRADING AROUND THE WORLD
From black to white and green, within each tea variety, grading terminology is based on quality. Words such as 'special' for the finest and 'common' for the lowest grade are used, with grades 1-7 in between. Oolong teas have their own special classification and are given names such as 'choicest', 'finest fine' and 'extra fancy'. In Taiwan, the even more grammatically idiosyncratic - 'fully superior', 'fine to finest' and 'fully good' grade the oolongs. While in Japan, green teas are described as 'good common', 'finest fine' and 'extra choicest'.
Traditional tea producing countries, such as India and Sri Lanka, is where you'll find the orthodox manufacturing method for black teas. Grading terms divide the leaf into 'leaf' grades and 'broken' leaf grades - with broken leaf grades referring to what is left after the larger leaf grades have been sifted out.
In Africa, and other countries that manufacture black tea for teabags, they use the Crush, Tear and Curl (CTC) method - a further system of grading terminology. It's designed to differentiate the much smaller, grainy particles known as 'fannings'.
These extremely small pieces of tea - sometimes called 'dusts', are left over after higher quality grades of tea such as the orange pekoe are gathered and sold. Traditionally, fannings were treated as the rejects of the manufacturing process. But in the last century they've experienced a huge demand in the developing world, mainly because they are cheap and produce a very strong brew - so a little goes a long way.
Our new Everyday Tea really makes the grade. This special blend combines a traditionally strong base of African and Indonesian teas, with the rich, malty taste of Assam.
This is perfectly complemented by hand-picked Yunnan tea; a rare, but essential ingredient that gives a special and unique finish. The new Everyday blend is an everyday tea with more taste, designed for everyday drinking, helping to "get you back to you" all week long.
Bear in mind though, tea grading only provides information about the appearance and size of the leaf. The quality of each tea depends on how it's cultivated, processed, handled and stored. Judging how good or bad the tea is comes down to the last and most essential part of the process - tasting it.