Black tea leaf grading system is widely used in India and Sri Lanka. So far this has been a topic that I could escape as I focused mostly on Chinese teas. But now I have received a great collection of Ceylon teas, the majority of which are black. They are classified based on the leaves and it is a great opportunity for me to learn!
The first one I choose was an Orange Pekoe (OP) which refers to the top leaf only – the one that is smallest and closest to the bud -. This tea is also referred to in the West as standard black tea. Curiously, this grading system is not used Chine although the name ‘pekoe’ comes from Chinese whereby it means (pak-ho; pek-ho) ‘white hair’. Some tea buds and leaves are covered with white buds and their existence (especially in Chinese teas) signifies high quality. The orange in OP is thought to relate to the Netherlands House of Orange (one of the earliest names in the history of global tea-trade). However, some say that it represents the colour of the dry leaf. For me, it could be the colour of the tea liquor or even one of the tasting notes. Because, especially while drinking this tea, I had some subtle citrus flavours.
I will mention more of this classification going forward. Although, I should say again that I am pro full leaf and pure teas and aim not to touch upon broken leaves or blends!
This tea is my kind of cuppa. It is mild, almost sweet with floral aromas. As I said above, I could also taste some subtle citrus notes. It has a very smoky and woody fragrance especially the dry leaves which disappear once infused. Coming from the largest tea-growing area in Sri Lanka, the seller says that tea bushes were planted around 1884-1885. The leaves were also sun-dried which bring in more layers to the tasting profile, in my view.
This is a type of tea, I can drink any time of the day, any time of the year just for pleasure.
Source: Tea A Global History by Helen Saberi
Type: Black tea
Origin: Dimbulla, Sri Lanka
Harvest time: February2020
Leave colour: Shades of brown (lighter once infused)
Tea aroma: Woody and smoky
Tea taste: Mild, smooth with floral and citrus undernotes
Steeping/brewing:You can use 90-100°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 3 years (to improve shelf life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry, dark place with low temperatures)