We’ll admit it, Orange Pekoe does have a very confusing name. If you think that Orange Pekoe refers to an orange flavored tea, you’re not alone! But contrary to what the name suggests, Orange Pekoe Black Tea is not an orange flavored black tea and when steeped, it is not even an orange color. Rather, Orange Pekoe, or OP and all of its variations, describe a system used to grade levels of black tea leaves from India, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries by tea leaf size and overall quality.
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WHAT IS ORANGE PEKOE BLACK TEA?
Orange Pekoe tea is a grade of medium to fine quality whole leaf black tea grown in India, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries. Orange Pekoe is not usually used to grade Chinese black teas. There are over a dozen different variations of Orange Pekoe tea grades that correspond to the size of the tea leaves and their quality, plus how, when, and what parts of the tea leaf are picked. To be considered Orange Pekoe, the top two tea leaves and bud must be picked.
HISTORY OF ORANGE PEKOE BLACK TEA
While the exact origins of Orange Pekoe are unknown, there are a few historic legends that explain how Orange Pekoe likely came to be. “Orange” most likely dates back to the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau, which played an integral part in expanding the tea trade to Europe through the Dutch East India Company in the 1800s. Around the same time, it is thought that “Pekoe” derived from a mispronounced Chinese word “baiho” that means the down-like white “hairs” on a young tea leaf bud, like the young buds picked for Orange Pekoe black tea. However, Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton tea, is often credited with expanding and popularizing the term Orange Pekoe in the late 1800s in the Western tea market.
ORANGE PEKOE VS. BLACK TEA
Orange Pekoe teas are exclusively black teas. However, not all black teas can be called Orange Pekoe. Because Orange Pekoe is a grade of tea, not a blend like Earl Grey or English Breakfast, it is determined by origin and size of the tea leaf.
Plus, to add to the confusion, only some countries use the Pekoe grading system for their black teas, while teas from China and Japan use other grading systems. Types of black teas that are often classified as Orange Pekoe can range from Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon to Nilgiri and more.
BENEFITS OF ORANGE PEKOE TEA
Orange Pekoe tea is tasty and high quality, but is Orange Pekoe Black Tea good for you? The short answer is yes, Orange Pekoe tea is good for you! Just like all black teas, Orange Pekoe contains powerful antioxidants called catechins, theaflavins, and flavonoids, a type of polyphenols. Research shows that these antioxidants help protect your heart by reducing plaque build-up around blood vessels, reduce blood pressure, and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. As a black tea, however, Orange Pekoe does contain caffeine. It is recommended to drink no more than 1-3 cups of black tea a day to avoid excessive caffeine consumption, which can potentially cause side effects such as anxiety and nausea.
GRADES OF ORANGE PEKOE
Learn more about these common grades of Orange Pekoe, so you can pick the right black tea for you!
- Orange Pekoe: Tightly rolled long and thin leaves
- Flowery: Short, higher quality leaves than OP with some buds
- Golden: Contains some high quality golden tips
- Tippy: Contains high quality tips and buds
- Finest tippy: Exceptional quality with lots of tips
- Broken: Broken OP fannings
Higher grades of Orange Pekoe will be whole and unbroken, and usually only the top leaves and young bud are picked. These grades are plucked meticulously and are often from the first early spring flush of the harvesting season. First flush teas will be denoted with a "1" after its description.
- OP - Orange Pekoe
- FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe
- GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe
- FTGFOP - Finest Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe
Lower grades of Orange Pekoe will contain a B for “broken” if the whole leaves are crushed into the fannings used in tea bags. These are the larger leaves picked lower on the plant and might be harvested during the second or later flushes of the season.
- BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe
- FBOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- GBOP - Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
- GFBOP - Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- TGFBOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
HOW TO MAKE ORANGE PEKOE TEA
Learn how to make a classic cup of Orange Pekoe Black Tea in less than five minutes! Depending on the origin, perfectly brewed Orange Pekoe Black Tea can taste smooth and bold, light and fruity, or malty and spicy.
HOW TO MAKE ORANGE PEKOE TEA
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- Kettle or pot to heat water
- Orange Pekoe loose tea leaves, sachets, or bags
- Teapot with filter, teacup, or your favorite mug with an infuser
STEP ONE: HEAT THE WATER
- 205℉-212℉ // Soft boil
Pro Tip: Use freshly drawn cold filtered water for the best tasting cup!
STEP TWO: MEASURE THE TEA
- Generally use 1 rounded tsp or 1 tea bag/sachet per 8 oz. (1 cup) of water
Pro Tip: Add tea leaves to a tea infuser that lets them open fully, or you can put them straight into the teapot and use a strainer when you're pouring a cup!
STEP THREE: STEEP THE TEA
- 3-5 minutes
Pro Tip: Don't let your Orange Pekoe Black Tea steep for too long! It's best to strain your leaves or take your sachet/teabag out when the time's up so you aren't left with a bitter cup. Taste your tea after the recommended steeping time and then decide if you’d like it to steep a little longer.
Pro Tip: Cover your tea while it steeps to keep all the heat and aroma in the steeping vessel, allowing the leaves to relax and unfurl.
STEP FOUR: ENJOY!
Orange Pekoe Black Tea is often enjoyed plain or with lemon, but it's also delicious and creamy when served with milk, a teaspoon of honey, or a bit of sugar.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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