Orange Pekoe: A Super Grading of Black Tea


Sometimes a strange name associated with a commonly used thing pinches us. Why? Because we expect to see what the name says.

One such misnomer is Orange Pekoe.

Most of us even don’t know what pekoe means, let alone the reason for the inclusion of the word, orange. So, let’s stop your curiosity and see what orange pekoe is?

What is Orange Pekoe?

What is Orange Pekoe

Orange Pekoe is simply a whole leaf grade of black tea that’s extracted from the youngest leaves or sometimes buds of the tea plant.

Unlike tea made from dust or fanning, orange pekoe is rich in taste with a delicate floral cup notes.

Why Orange Pekoe is called Orange Pekoe?

That’s the first question every person hearing this for the first time asks—that why it’s named after orange when it has nothing to do with it.

Well, let’s first discuss pekoe. Pronounced as ‘peek-oo’ the word pekoe is derived from the Chinese word, ‘pey ho,’ which means white down.

Thus, it refers to the white downy hairs of young tea leaves and buds of the tea plant.

Now come to the Orange part.

Does orange pekoe tea taste like orange?

Even though it neither has a citrusy taste like orange nor smells like it, still why it is called Orange Pekoe and not First Leaf or High-Grade Black tea.

Though the concrete evidence is insufficient to support random theories that are associated with giving the Orange name to this tea, yet one of such theories seem logical to be accepted.

The Orange word came for the Dutch Royal family, which is called the House of Orange-Nassau.

But why Dutch? Well, it might be because Netherland was the biggest importer of tea until 1784.

And a severe competition made them label their products with their identification, and everyone knows even today how important orange color is for the Dutch.

Is Black Tea Same as Orange Pekoe?

The answer is simple.

The commercial black tea available commonly at grocery stores is made from dust or fanning of the tea leaves.

In other words, the common black tea is the by-products of the tea, whereas orange pekoe is specialized teas made from the bud or the youngest leaves.

The same can be understood with the example of commercial and specialty coffee.

So, if you are accustomed to giving specialized coffee gifts to your loved ones, this time, you may try Orange Pekoe.

Another famous tea is the white tea, which is also one of the most delicate teas available today.

It’s harvested before the leaves even open fully. Means, white tea is made from young buds of the tea plant that are yet to become leaves and are covered by fine white hairs.

Black Tea Leaf Grading

Black Tea Leaf Grading

Orange Pekoe is not the only grade. Instead, there are other gradings too. Let’s look at each of those.

  •  Flowery Orange Pekoe (from the Buds)
  •  Orange Pekoe (from the Higher leaf)
  •  Pekoe (from the 2nd Higher Leaf)
  •  Pekoe Souchong
  •  Souchong
  •  Congou
  •  Bohea (Last leaf)

Orange Pekoe Whole leaf Grading

There are some common commercial terms usually associated with black tea grading.

The interesting thing is that these terms used by the westerners are only associated with Srilankan or Indian tea, and not with Chinese or other teas.

In this grading, Orange Pokoe can be termed as the lowest grade tea with others superior in quality than it.

1. Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP)

This orange pekoe is of outstanding quality and the finest of all. It’s made from a large number of golden tips of the tea plant.

The most known variety is Assam FTGFOP, which is grown in Belsari estate, India.

Its taste is malty and strong and is recommended to be brewed for 3-4 minutes in boiling water.

2. TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Less qualitative than FTGFOP but still a fine quality.

3. GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Golden refers to the colorful tips at the end of the top bud.

4. FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe

It is made from the first two leaves and the bud.

5. OP: Orange Pekoe

It consists of long thin leaves without any tip. Its further types are OP1 and OPA.

OP1 is more delicate then orange pekoe, wiry with light liquor, and a bit longer. OPA tightly rolled or almost open, longer, and bolder than OP.

Besides the above grading, the grading system of broken leaves, fanning, and dust are also popular.

How Does Orange Pekoe Tea Taste Like?

How Does Orange Pekoe Tea Taste Like

If it’s from the farms of Srilanka, it would be lighter, sweeter and fruitier. On the other hand, Indian orange pekoe tends to be more spicy, smoky, rich, and malty.

Regarding the grades of orange pekoe, the rule of thumb is, the lesser the letters, the lighter the flavor—for example, TGFOPK will be lighter than OP (orange pekoe)

Benefits of Black Tea (Orange Pekoe)

Is orange pekoe tea good for you?

Orange pekoe contains Rutin, which is a great antioxidant helping in fighting free radicals and premature aging. Another benefit is in the form of low fluorides that prevents dental cavities.

So, let us look at what is orange pekoe tea good for in detail.

1. Helps Fighting Intestinal infections

Its antimicrobial features help fighting bacteria.

Research has shown that black tea inhibits the growth of harmful oral bacteria that lead to dental and throat infections.

2. Improves Attention and Self-reported alertness

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world. With certain other properties, it is proved to play an active role in our daily cognitive function, thanks to the presence of caffeine and L-theanine.

If you want less caffeine, you may opt for decaf orange pekoe.

Q: How much caffeine in orange pekoe tea exists?

Ans: Orange pekoe tea caffeine is much lesser than it is in coffee. It contains about 34mg of caffeine in a normal cup.

3. Helps in Maintaining Blood Sugar level

Black tea has amazing properties to maintain the blood sugar level in our bodies. A study was conducted to test the role of Srilankan Orange Pekoe tea in lowering the blood glucose level.

It was concluded that black tea infusion had insulin-mimetic action with an ability to improve insulin sensitivity.

4. Eliminates the Risk of Stroke

A stroke is a sudden blockage or interruption in the arteries that carry the blood to the brain. It’s the second leading cause of death in the world.

According to a study that aimed to determine the association of tea consumption and the risk of stroke, there is a strong correlation between tea consumption and stroke risk prevention.

5. Lowers the Risk of Breast Cancer

We all know cancer is fatal. According to the American Cancer Society, there were more than six hundred thousand deaths from cancer in 2019 in the United States alone.

The antioxidants and polyphenols in orange pekoe black tea help prevent cell mutation that causes cancer.

Various studies have been conducted so far to know if tea consumption is associated with breast, liver, prostate, stomach, or other types of cancers.

The studies conclude the consumption of three cups a day was significantly related to lowering the risk of breast cancer.

6. Lowers The Risk of Type-2 Diabetes

According to the data published by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, 79,000 deaths happen each year due to diabetes.

Four or more cups a day have proved to play an active role in lowering the risk of type-2 diabetes.

7. Improves Gut Health

Antimicrobial and polyphenols in black tea help improve one’s gut health.

There are trillions of good and bad bacteria in our digestive system.

The significance of our gut in the overall function of our system can be measured from the fact that 70-80% of our immune system depends upon our digestive system.

That’s the reason you will always find food that boosts immunity marketed more than any other thing that can improve our immune.

8. Reducing Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk

Orange Pekoe also plays a major role in reducing cholesterol levels of hypercholesterolemic adults (people with high cholesterol levels).

A study showed that consumption of tea reduces total and LDL cholesterol, and thus reduces the risk of any cardiac disease.

9. A Powerful Antioxidant

Orange Pekoe or other grades, so black tea has a high level of antioxidants that has plenty of health benefits.

It’s rich in flavonoids, a compound that helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers.

Also, it’s powerful antioxidant feature helps reducing free radicals in the body that otherwise would cause diseases like asthma and Alzheimer’s.

How to Make Orange Pekoe Tea?

Let’s look into the step-by-step process for making orange pekoe.

  • Take enough water in the teapot, like 6 cups if you want to make 4 cups of tea and so on.
  • The water you take should be cold water, and not already used one or not hot tap water even.
  • Boil water for at least 15 minutes or it till the water starts boiling.
  • Put your teabag into a tea infuser mug and pour boiling water into it. Brew it for 3-4 minutes and stir it gently. Add sugar if needed.
  • You may make it delicious further by adding milk or lemon.
  • In case you want iced tea, do not put it in the fridge or freezer straight away. Instead, let it cool down at room temperature. Once it cools down, add ice cubes as per your desire.

You will observe that your orange pekoe tea is much tastier than the commercial black teas we drink at home.


The pure thing, although hard to find or heavy on pocket, gets you the taste and quality you won’t find in ordinary things.

Even though there’s no orange involved in orange pekoe still the fine buds and young leaves it is made of, makes it distinctive. So, next time your search for the best quality tea, don’t forget to check orange pekoe tea bags.

Have you drunk orange pekoe ever? If yes, let us know how did you feel then? Did you feel any difference between this and your traditional black tea? Let us know in the comment section.


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