Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flavoured or Unflavoured Teas - Grading and Orange Pekoe

As a child, I used to think that Orange Pekoe was a tea that had orange in it...flavoured with orange essence. I remember thinking that when I was old enough to drink tea, I would try the Orange Pekoe first. I did, and it is not. Surprisingly, Orange Pekoe is a classification, or grading of the tea. Of course there are many stories about how it originally got the name, one story that is most widly accepted is:

The mispronounciation of the Chinese AMOY (pinyin or Xiamen) known as white down hairs (pehoeji or pehho). In an 1819 Chinese Dictionary by Rev. Robert Morrison lists this Chinese tea as one known by many Europeans and had white down-like hairs (pehoeji) on the leaf showing the finest, most tender leaves of the tea plant.

However, Sir Thomas Lipton , 19th Century Tea Importer, is credited with popularizing tea terms for Western markets. The Orange is from the copper color of the not-yet-dried leaves, but mainly because of the fininshed color once the leaves had been dried. The orange color is a result of the oxidation of the dried leaves.

Misunderstood in the modern times is, the grading of teas using the diagram above is mainly from Indian Tea or Sri Lankan Teas and not Chinese teas.

So in reality, Orange Pekoe is a grading system, and descriptive color of the tea leaves and not a flavour at all!

Next post will be on "how" tea is flavoured into the scrumptious flavours like "Sunny Passion", "Orange Cookie" and others! Thanks for stopping by!

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