Specialty Tea – Part 4 – Sorting and Packing Tea Leaves

Tea Leaf Grading – Sorting by

This is a good a place to talk about tea leaf grades.  Tea leaves begin to get sorted at the rolling stage and it culimenates at the sorting stage.  Handmade or rolled by machine, the leaves will be sorted by type of leaves, size and thus graded accordingly. 

Sorting tea leaves into grades based on just on size of the leaf but the type of leave, how it was made(processed) and the season it was picked in. Small samples are taken for the auction house in Colombo
Tea Samples – Packed and Labelled for the Auction House in Colombo

This key stage is decided when leaves are picked; the bud only, bud and first 2 young leaves, leaves and the season the tea leaves are picked in.  The grading given below determines the price of your tea, which of them is used for black/green tea and which is used for blending and in tea bags.

Tea Leaves


These grades are commonly used in Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and others.  However the grading system used in China and Japan are different.  Since I specialise in Ceylon (Sri Lankan) tea I have detailed these below.

The table gives the most common tea leave grade I use for blending teas, the first three.  The other grades mentioned are not typically used for blending since they are extremely specialised and only a small quantity is produced for a specialist market.

Acronym /Commonly Used Terms Detail of Tea Leave Type
Orange Pekoe   OP Long pointed leaves that are larger than FOP. Harvested when the buds are just opening up into leaves.  Would not contain tips
Pekoe P Shorter and coarser leaves than OP
Flowery Orange Pekoe FOP Bud and first 2 leaves from the new shoot of a tea bush. FOP contains a good balance of the ‘tip’ of the bush and the young tender leaves just under the tip.
Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe GFOP The very end of the golden yellow leaf buds
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe TGFOP Will have a large proportion of golden tips
Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe SFTGFOP This is the best FOP
Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe SFTGFOP The best FOP
Flowery Pekoe FP Leaves are rolled lengthwise and the pieces are shorter and coarser
Pekoe Souchong PS Shorter coarser leaves than the Pekoe grade
Souchong S Large leaves rolled lengthwise which are ragged and coarse.  These are produced to make smoked teas
Mechanical sorting of tea leaves by size and grade.  Tea grades are decided when the process of rolling tea starts.
Sorting Tea Leaves by Leaf Grade

Broken Leaf Grades:

Almost all the grades from the whole tea leaves but these are ones that break during one of the processes we have seen previously.

Grade Name Acronym /Commonly Used Terms
Broken Orange Pekoe BOP
Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe FBOP
Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe GFBOP
Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe TGBOP
Tippy Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe TFBOP
Tippy  Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe TGFBOP
Broken Pekoe Souchong BPS

Fannings or Tea Dusts:

While the tea leaves are being sorted, rolled, fermented and transferred, these actions will create dusts or fannings.  These are typically used in tea bags; the brew is quick and gives a strong colour very quickly.

Grade Name Acronym /Commonly Used Terms
Orange Fannings OF
Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings BOPF
Pekoe Fannings PF
Broken Pekoe Fannings BPF
Pekoe Dust PD  

CTC Grade– Cut, Tear and Curl

This grade is specifically made for the tea bag market.  Tea leaves are mashed rather than rolled to ferment the leaves.

CTC - the action of cutting and mashing up the leaves as quickly as possible to give the tea bag that quick brew and strong colour
Tea Leaf for Tea Bags
Grade Name Acronym /Commonly Used Terms
Broken Pekoe BP
Broken Pekoe 1 BP1
Pekoe Fannings PF
Pekoe Dust PD
Dust D
Dust 1 D1
Dust 2 D2
Red Dust RD
Broken Mixed Fannings BMF
Tea Dust/Fannings in the Packing Area

There are no CTC graded tea leaves in any of Miss TeaSmith’s speciality teas and it’s not used in any of our blends

Sorting is carried out by the machines and the tea is bagged and labelled as appropriate.

Packing Tea

Sri Lanka has a centralised auction system for selling its tea, both to an internal market and internationally.  Samples are sent to the Sri Lankan Tea Board and it’s on this basis that the tea is auctioned and sold.

Tea Dust and Fannings for the Tea Bags Market

It’s packed in bags of 10 kgs or more of tea and sent down to Colombo to be transported to blending house or onto ships for onward travel to other countries.

Speciality Tea from Ceylon
Speciality Tea from Sri Lanka – Ceylon Black Tea