After tea leaves are picked, they are sorted by size. The larger the leaf, the greater its surface area for steeping. The longer it takes to steep, the more complex and nuanced the infusion.
- Whole Leaf Grades are primarily used for loose leaf tea. They range from Orange Pekoe to Flowery Orange Pekoe to Super Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (STGFOP). Numi uses Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) and above for our tea bags.
- Broken Leaf Grades are used in premium tea bags and consist of Orange Pekoe, or the hand-picked top two leaves and bud of the tea plant.
- Fannings are the small pieces of tea that have fallen to the bottom if the sifting process, and are left over after higher grades of teas are gathered and sold. Fannings with extremely small particles are sometimes called “dust.” Fannings and dust are considered the lowest grades of tea. These are predominantly used in lower quality tea bags. Due to their small surface area, these tea bags can only be steeped for a short time before tannin (a natural compound in tea) is released. This results in a bitter taste. This grade of tea is often masked with milk, sugar, or flavorings.
Orange Pekoe has nothing to do with the taste of orange. Rather, the term Orange refers to the Dutch noble House of Orange-Nassau, which brought tea to Europe during the 18th century.