Tea Leaf Grading
When we started Alakaban we knew about Tea but we weren't entirely caught up on the wide variety of grades. We got put through a mini boot camp of tea grades when we were contacting estate owners. This guide is something that helped us and hopefully will help you to in understanding the complexity of Tea.
There is a huge variety of Tea out there today. It may be overwhelming to go to a tea store nowadays and see the huge selection of blends offered. Although blends are fun and flavorful, it all comes down to how good the actual Tea in the blend is. No matter how you mask it, you came for the tea not the random fillers.
To understand how tea is graded there is a basic understanding that Orange Pekoe means the highest grade and fannings or dust mean the lower grades. We at Alakaban offer a range of tea grown in Sri Lanka. Our tea grades vary but the majority of our tea is in the broken leaf grade with soon to come whole leaf grades. Since we are offering Sri Lankan tea, we do offer their main types of tea produced such as BOPF (broken orange pekoe fanning) and BOP (broken orange pekoe) but we are increasing our variety as we go along.
It's amazing how different a tea can taste based on it's grade. It's easy to just go to the store and grab what's there and say "yep this is my favorite, I'll stick with this" but you're doing yourself a disservice but not at least trying the various grades.
We built this little guide to help you understand the grading process.
Whole Leaf Grades
Whole leaf grades are basically exactly that. Whole leaf teas. They vary depending on the amount of tips, the type of leaf etc. The smaller leaves are actually more sought after than the large leaf teas. As far as value goes, smaller leaves are more expensive. Teas are sifted through meshes which actually determines the grade of the leaf. Obviously large whole leafs stay near the top of the meshes where as broken pieces end up near the bottom.
Here's a little more descriptive guide on the types of Whole leaf tea grades.
Broken Leaf Grades
Broken leaf tea grades are made up of tea leaves that have fallen further through the meshes when leaves are graded. The term speaks for itself, but again there are varying levels of broken leaf grades that actually do have quite a big effect on the taste.
Fannings & Dust
These are the lowest grades of the tea and have either been run through CTC or are the smallest pieces that fell through the meshes when the grading process was done. Fannings can be expensive, depending on what kind of tea the fanning is actually from. For example if it's a golden tip white tea from Sri Lanka (one of the more expensive, rare teas) the fannings would even still cost quite a bit as the grade of the original tea is very high.
All The Rest
There are a few other grades we didn't cover in the above, but those are simply the same grades just named differently depending on the country.
This should help give you a strong overview on how tea is graded.