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Orange Pekoe Tea Sri Lanka -Revealing the Pekoe

The words Pekoe and Orange Pekoe are some of the most popular terms used to describe high grades of teas originating from a handful of countries. Of the few countries specializing in its production, Sri Lanka is considered to be its top producers. With the continuing increase in popularity it is only right if we gave you all the juicy details of the Pekoe.

How does one pronounce Pekoe?

Is it Pee-koe?? Is it Pee-koh-ee?? These can be a very believable yet deceiving pronunciation because the true way to pronounce the word Pekoe is quite abrupt. It is pronounced ‘Peck-oh’ just like gecko. There! Simple.

What exactly is Orange Pekoe then?

Orange Pekoe is a very particular grade of black tea that consists of only the younger portions of the tea plants. This includes the terminal buds of the plants and the young leaves around it. The highest grades of tea are determined by two important factors;
a) the wholeness of the leaves

b) the size of the leaves.

The younger leaves tend to bring out the best of flavours. Therefore, harvesting the younger terminal parts of the plant at the optimum time, yield some of the world’s finest teas today. Some of these high-graded teas are not only hand-picked but even hand-sorted too ! All the labour involved in obtaining this high grade of tea make them highly expensive.


What does Orange Pekoe look like?


Alakaban’s February Valentine Subscription tea featured none other than the one, the only Orange Pekoe! This particular grade of Orange Pekoe chosen for you was such that you would be able to witness the long wiry feel and that air-brushed twisted appearance of the leaves. If you looked closer, you would even be able to get a glimpse of the orange specks of the buds here and there.

How did the strange name ‘Orange Pekoe’ come into existence?

There are a few theories explaining the possibilities as to how Orange Pekoe obtained its name.The actual derivation of the name is still indefinite. A few theories to this mystery are listed below;

The word ‘Pekoe’-

Theory 1- Pekoe may have been derived from the Chinese term ‘baihua’ or ‘white flower’ describing the buds of the pekoe tea.

Theory 2- Also a Chinese derivation of a possible mispronunciation of a transliterated word for Chinese Tea known as white/down hair. This concept is listed under the works of Robert Morrison, an Anglo-Scottish translator of the 17th century.

The word ‘Orange’-

You would think this particular grade of tea named Orange Pekoe would have something ANYthing to do with the orange fruit. Perhaps an orange scent? An orange flavour? But alas! No it is not so.
As surprising as it may seem Orange Pekoe possesses NO such relation with the orange fruit, not at all. A few theories are as follows;

Theory 1- The influence of the Dutch descent ‘The House of Orange-Nassau’. This is a branch of the European dynasty ‘House of Nassau’. Sri Lanka does have a history when the country was under the Dutch reign. Even today you will be able to see the ruins of the ancient Dutch Fort in Northern Sri Lanka. Now history has proved to us CLEARLY that an entire line of family DID  have ‘Orange’ as their last name. How creative is that! 

Theory 2- Because it does not have the flavour or the scent of orange, one idea is that it perhaps gained its name from the bright orange colour of the tea when brewed! Now that it is all typed out, this seems to be the more obvious simple reasoning.

Fun fact : It was the Scottish Baronet, Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton who re-introduced the term Pekoe and made its popularity rise in the Western Tea Trade. Almost all of Sri Lanka’s tea users will know the name ‘Lipton’ without a doubt because of the locally popular brand of tea called ‘Lipton Laojee’. There were several catchy Lipton laojee songs being advertised in radios and televisions that even if Sri Lankans today don't know of the origin of the name Lipton, they would surely know to hum the Lipton laojee songs right.


How does this Orange Pekoe tea taste?

Because we have sniffed it, sipped it and loved it we can guarantee a splendid experience! Maybe it’s just all teas we thought..until we sipped it. The strength of the black tea when you understand it and hone it to just the right amount, that tangy beauty becomes a perfect balance of flavour and goodness. To add to it all the brew emanates a very aromatic scent!



What other Orange Pekoe versions are there?

Depending on the time of yield and the processing of the leaves afterwards, the gradings range from Fannings, Dust, Broken, Flowery and the higher graded Golden Tippy types.

What do Sri Lankans think of Orange Pekoe?

With all this hosh posh going on with Orange Pekoe we wanted to have an inside look at what Sri Lanka’s own tea-loving inhabitants felt of Orange Pekoe. After our survey we were surprised at the responses, overjoyed at the answers and most satisfied with the conclusion. What took us by surprise was finding out that not many Lankans are familiar with the existence of Orange Pekoe tea!

Here are some of the best answers we received from jovial participants.

Top 4th Answer “Is it some fruit juice or something?”

Top 3rd Answer  “My guess tells me it’s a cartoon character..but my google research says something else.”

Runner-up Answer  “Sounds like a name of a Pokemon character >:P ”

And the Winning Answer isss “I dunno why but I get the picture of a cartoonish orange orangutan! >:D”

Analysis and Conclusion

Although Orange Pekoe is a very popular grade of tea around the world today only a handful of locations specialize in its production. With Sri Lanka being one of the top orange pekoe producers, average Sri Lankan tea-drinkers are not very familiar with this. The answer is very simple and quite simplistically beautiful.

Sri Lanka is a land of tea with tea leaves blooming in so many areas! Each tea variety gives rise to tea of a unique flavour and scent. To a Sri Lankan, the grading of the tea is merely a trifle. What matters the most is the flavour of the wonderful teas that you joyfully sip. In fact, many Sri Lankan households are mainly used to Dust-grade tea where the leaves are as fine as dust. The dust grades are more readily available and are extremely affordable for daily usage.Good tea in Sri Lanka is the perfect balance of the tea liquour with the sweetness of the sugar and the personalized touch of spices like cinnamon.

It is these simplest of teas that you taste at a friend’s house during a visit or at a tea stall after a tiring long travel and most importantly the tea that you have in your own home that makes you fall in love with tea in the first place.

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