Ah, the age-old question. It haunts you. It keeps you up at night. It consumes your psyche. Seriously. What is Orange Pekoe Tea?
Despite what many initially think, Orange Pekoe tea is not an orange-flavored tea. It’s not necessarily even orange-colored. Actually, Orange Pekoe isn’t even a specific kind of tea.
Huh? What? You serious, dude?
If you think I’m just teasing you and you feel like leaving, stick around. This will all make sense eventually.
Orange Pekoe Explained
Again, Orange Pekoe doesn’t refer to a specific kind of orange-flavored or orange-colored tea. It actually refers to a particular grade of loose-leaf black tea. The keyword here is: Grade.
This tea grading system – used primarily for Indian black teas – is based on the origin, size, and quality of the tea leaves.
Orange Pekoe (OP) is how the international tea industry denotes a whole leaf black tea that has orange-brown tips. You might be surprised to find out that Orange Pekoe represents the lowest grade of loose-leaf black tea.
Still, being graded as OP indicates quality. It also indicates that the tea is composed of whole loose leaves.
Pretty interesting, huh?
Orange you glad you stayed?
More on Tea Grading
Once tea leaves are processed, they are dried and then sorted into grades. Again, tea grades are based on the origin, size, and quality of the leaves.
Within the tea grading system, there are three major categories: Whole, Broken, and Crushed.
Orange Pekoe is a grade within the Whole Leaf category. Orange Pekoe is usually represented by the letters ‘OP.’
You down with OP?
As previously mentioned, OP does indicate quality. But there are higher quality whole-leaf teas within this grade. These include:
- FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe
- GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
- FTGFOP: Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
There is also a related grading system for broken leaf teas that are still of high quality:
- BP: Broken Pekoe
- FP: Flowery Pekoe
- FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- GBOP: Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
- GFBOP: Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
- TGFBOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
Curiously, there isn’t much of a standard against which the grades are measured. Each factory tends to assign its own grading to its own crop. In other words, one factory’s Orange Pekoe may not be the same as another factory’s Orange Pekoe.
What about those other letters?
Let’s also break down what some of the other letters in the grading system mean.
You’ve already learned that ‘OP’ stands for Orange Pekoe, which means that the tea is loose leaf and medium to high quality.
When a ‘B’ is added, this means that the leaves are broken, which yields a stronger cup of tea.
When an ‘F’ – which stands for Flowery – is added, this means that the tea is of higher quality and contains the buds of the tea plant. “F” can sometimes appear at the beginning of a tea grade. In this case, it stands for ‘Finest’ and means that the tea is of the highest quality.
When a “G” is added, this means that the tea has a high amount of buds. ‘G’ stands for Golden. These buds are often golden in appearance.
And finally, when a ‘T’ is added, this means that the tea is made from the finest tips and buds of the tea plant. ‘T’ stands for ‘Tippy.”
The Origin of Orange Pekoe
Nobody really knows for sure where the word “pekoe” comes from. But there are a few theories.
According to WikiTea, one theory is that “pekoe” comes from “the transliterated mispronunciation of the Amoy (Xiamen) dialect word for a Chinese tea known as white/down/hair.” This is apparently how “pekoe” is listed by Rev Robert Morrison in his Chinese dictionary as one of the seven sorts of black tea “commonly known by Europeans.”
Another theory is that the term comes from the Chinese báihuā “white flower” and refers to the bud content of the tea. As WikiTea points out, Sir Thomas Lipton, the 19th-century British tea magnate is “widely credited with popularizing, if not reinventing, the term for Western markets.”
Additionally, there are two theories for the meaning and origin of the word “Orange” in Orange Pekoe.
- The Dutch Royal House of Orange-Nassau or The Dutch East India Company, which played an integral role in bringing tea to Europe, may have promoted the tea as”orange” to suggest a royal warrant.
- Before drying, a high-quality, oxidized tea leaf takes on a copper-y color.
Orange Pekoe Health Benefits
Black tea has a variety of health benefits, and Orange Pekoe is no exception.
It contains a plethora of antioxidants, which have been found to reduce free radicals, improve cellular health, and perhaps play a role in warding off some degenerative diseases. Like many kinds of tea, Orange Pekoe also has anti-inflammatory and digestive properties.
Does Orange Pekoe Have Caffeine?
Orange Pekoe tea does contain caffeine. Generally, most varieties of black tea contain approximately 34 mg of caffeine per 6 ounce cup of tea. This is about 1/3 to 1/2 that of a comparable size cup of coffee.
Orange Pekoe tea also contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid found primarily in black and green teas (and some mushrooms). L-theanine has been found to help reduce anxiety and stress, and promote mental alertness. L-Theanine can also be taken as a supplement. Try these 200mg Capsules from Nature’s Trove.
Best Orange Pekoe Brands
You’d be wise to add Orange Pekoe tea to your home supply. It’s a great afternoon pick-me-up and hits the spot when you’ve craving a good, honest cup of cockle-warming black tea.
While there are certainly many brands of Orange Pekoe, you can’t go wrong with these:
- Twinings Of London Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea – With over 60,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, Twinings of London boasts fresh flavor and only the highest quality Orange Pekoe tea. Grab this bestseller to wet your whistle.
- Harney & Sons Orange Pekoe Tea – This classic Orange Pekoe blend yields a mellow, ultra satisfying cup of sip-worthy tea. Supposedly, the company’s founder, John Harney, drank this tea whenever he needed some liquid comfort. Grab this box of 50 tea bags. Each bag yields a 6 to 8 oz. cup
- Frontier Co-op Fair Trade Orange Pekoe – Frontier Co-op’s Fair Trade, High Grown, Certified Organic, and Certified Kosher Orange Pekoe makes a medium-strong cup of tea that boasts bold flavor and a high level of astringency. Grab the 1-pound bag.
How to Prepare Orange Pekoe Tea
No need to over-complicate this! Prepare your Orange Pekoe like you would almost any other cup of tea. You do you. But here are the basic instructions:
- Boil water.
- Add tea bag.
- Let steep for 4-6 minutes.
- Pour into your favorite cup.
- Add milk or honey to taste (optional).
- Sip and enjoy!