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Frequently Asked Questions
  • How is tea processed?
  • What do the letters on M&P's Tea labels mean?
  • Which is the best grade?
  • What about the other terms used?

  • How is tea processed?

There are two ways of processing the picked leaf--orthodox and CTC.

(1) Orthodox Processing is where only the best leaves are picked, and these are left in relatively large pieces, being processed by hand. The benefit is that it allows more subtlety and flavour in the made tea, though it means the leaves have to be carefully hand picked, thus increasing costs. The orthodox process, as its name suggests, is more traditional and has been used for literally thousands of years. All M&P's Teas are processed this way.

(2) CTC (Crush, tear, curl) processing forces the leaves and other plant matter through large toothed wheels which literally rend the pieces apart, opening up cell walls and allowing more oxidisation to take place. The result is a stronger, faster-brewing tea with a deep colour, though with consequent loss of delicacy. One benefit is that not just top leaves, but also lower leaves, stalk, and some wood can be processed, which allows machine cutting and saves costs. The finished tea is much finer than most orthodox teas which means it is usually used for tea bags.


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  • What do the letters on M&P's Tea labels mean?

    You may have noticed that we print the leaf grade on the tins. Have you wondered what SFGTFGOP1 means? Is it better than FTGFOP? What is BOP?

A: Orthodox Leaf Grades

(1) OP - Orange Pekoe Despite popular misconceptions, OP has nothing to do with orange the fruit or orange the colour. It does not even denote a place of origin, but rather a specific leaf--the third one on the plant. OP leaves are left whole or in large pieces during processing, and generally have a dark, well twisted appearance.

Historical note: "Orange" is said to refer to the Dutch House of Orange; "pekoe" is a corruption of the chinese word for "white hair" and refers to the fine downy growth on the underside of the leaf.

(2) FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe refers to teas produced using the top two leaves of the new growth, and gives a more flowery result than OP. Since the leaf yield of these small leaves is less than for OP, the result is scarcer and commands higher prices at auction.

(3) GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe is as FOP, but containing a high proportion of "golden tips" which refer to the unopened bud at the top of the plant. In general, the colour of the dry leaf is brighter, and the tips should be very noticeable. For a tea to contain these tips means that it was picked quite young, when the buds were still tender and fresh.

(4) TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe has more of the sweet flavoursome tips than GFOP, and is an extremely high grade.

(5) FTGFOP - Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe is generally accepted as the most "tippy" of the leaf grades, and is the most sought after, especially for Darjeeling teas.

(6) SFTGFOP - Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe An extremely rare find, this grade supercedes (5) above. For Assam teas, the leaves contain sweet golden tips in abundance, and are consequently referred to as "GT."

Note: The suffix "1" is sometimes added to the above grades (5) & (6) to denote an even higher grade. Thus, the theoretically finest leaf would be SFTGFOP1!

B: Orthodox Broken Grades

(1) BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe is, as its name suggests, an OP where the leaves are cut into fine pieces, allowing more oxidisation and a stronger flavour and colour. The pieces are larger than CTC or dust, and a strainer should be sufficient to keep them out of the cup. For Ceylon teas, BOP is the most sought after grade.

(2) BOPF - Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings are the smaller pieces which are left behind when the BOP is taken out. Due to their increased surface area, they produce a very well coloured and strong tea, but will fall through a strainer. Thus, they are usually found in tea bag form.

(3) D - Dust is literally the sweepings from the factory floor. Most of it is reputed to end up in tea bags...


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  • Which is the best grade?

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), leaf grading is an art not a science, and various systems exist of which the above is only one. The answer to the question depends entirely on what kind of tea one is looking for--the results from a BOP will be completely different from a TGFOP. However, for teas where delicacy is more important than strength, it is safe to say that the more tippy the tea, the better the result is likely to be. Likewise, for the drinker who prefers colour and strength, a BOP is more appropriate.


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  • What about the other terms used?
  • First Flush refers to the season in which the leaf is picked. Usually used for Darjeeling, it implies that the tea was picked in Spring (April) and has a light, astringent flavour.

    Second Flush teas are picked in early summer and have a strong, round, fully formed flavour.

    DJ x/xx - Darjeeling teas are numbered according to batch and year. Due to the extreme sensitivity of camelia sinensis to changes in the weather and other factors such as processing, leaves picked on two consecutive days may produce completely different results. The first few batches of Darjeeling first flush (until around DJ10) are highly prized, and any tea from this range will generally announce itself on the label. The very first leaf of the season, DJ1, is the most prestigious, though not always the best.

    MUS - Muscat or Muscatel refers to the special quality found in the finest Darjeelings that resembles the muscat grape. This is a highly prized leaf.

    CH - Chinese refers to Darjeeling teas that are grown from descendents of the original Chinese jat planted in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Although these are hard to grow, many people feel that they provide the most delicate flavour. Many Darjeeling plants were taken from Assam cuttings or seed; others are hybrid.

    GT - Golden Tips refers to the highest grade of tippy Assam tea; one containing the largest proportion of the golden leaf tips.

    High-Grown is generally a designation for teas from Ceylon which are grown at a height of over 3,500 feet. The thin air and other factors (soil, rain, wind etc) combine to produce an exceptionally brisk tea.

    Mid-Grown teas range from 1,800 to 3,500 feet offer a good balance of taste, strength, and colour.

    Low-Grown refers to leaf grown under 1,800 feet; this has good strength and colour, but lacks some of the subtlety of the highest grown teas. 


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