Tealeaf grading is done in different ways in different countries. The most popular way to grade tealeaves is according to the leaf size. The tea can then be whole leaf, broken or small leaf, fannings and even dust. Usually the leaves with the most "tip"- the term used to indicate leaves plucked from the very top of the plant - receive the highest rating.
The following are the most popularly accepted gradings for Black tea, Green tea and Oolong tea:
Black tea grades: The first grade of black tea is called OP or Orange Pekoe. This comprises the best and most tender leaves, plucked from the tips of the plant’s young shoots. The other grades are:
• Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP): This comprises fine, tender, young leaves rolled with a certain proportion of “tips”.
• Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP): As the name suggests, this is FOP with “golden tips”.
• Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP): This grade is of exceptional quality FOP
• Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP): This tea is considered the very best FOP. A large proportion of leaves have golden “tips” in this grade of tea.
• Pekoe (P): These are shorter, less fine leaves without “tips”.
• Flowery Pekoe (FP): These comprise of leaves rolled into ball shape.
• Pekoe Souchong (PS): It is made of shorter, coarser leaves.
• Souchong (S): It is made of large leaves rolled lengthwise, and is generally used for smoked teas.
• Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe - A BOP with more tip than the FBOP.
• Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP): Larger than the standard BOP, this grade often contains leaves with brown and silver tips.
• BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe - This is the smallest of leaf grades. It gives good colored strong liquor
• BP: Broken Pekoe - This comprises of very short, even, curly leaves.
The other grades are: Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings, Broken Orange Pekoe Dust, Pekoe Dust, Red Dust, Super Red Dust, Fine Dust, Super Fine Dust and Golden Dust.
Green tea grades: These are graded by the quality of their flavor, the area of growth and the way the leaf is flushed or picked. The general categories in different countries are:
Japan: Extra Choicest, Choicest, Choice, Finest, Fine, Good Medium, Medium, Good Common, Common, Nubs, Dust and Fannings.
China: Gunpowder, Imperial, Young Hyson, Hyson Twanky, Hyson Skin and Dust.
India: Fine Young Hyson, Young Hyson, Hyson No.1, Hyson, Soumee, Fannings, Dust.
Oolong tea grades: These follow the following descending order grading system developed by the Taiwanese government: Standard, On Good, Good, Fully Good, Good Up, Good to Superior, On Superior, Superior, Fully Superior, Superior Up, Superior to Fine, On Fine, Fine, Fine Up, Fine to Finest, Finest, Finest to Choice.