Grades & Regions Of Ceylon Tea

Sri Lanka has over 188,000 hectares under tea cultivation yielding about 298,000 tonnes of “made” tea, and accounting for more than 19% of world exports. In 1972, the island then known as Ceylon reverted to the traditional name of Sri Lanka, but retained the brand name of Ceylon for the marketing of its teas.

Tea from Sri Lanka falls into three categories: low-grown (on estates up to an elevation of 2,000ft); medium grown (on elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 ft); and high grown (elevations above 4,000 ft). Each level produces teas of unique character. By blending teas from different areas of the island and at varied elevations, Sri Lanka can offer a very wide range of flavour and colour. Some are full-bodied, others light and delicate, but all Ceylon blends will have brisk, full flavours and bright golden colour.

Because of its geographical location, tea can be plucked in Sri Lanka all year round – the west and east of the island are separated by central mountains so that as each region’s season ends, the other begins. Below are descriptions of the three high grown regions.

Dimbula Region

Probably the most famous of Ceylon teas, Dimbula is cultivated on estates first planted with tea when their coffee crops failed in 1870. Grown 5,000ft above sea level, all Dimbula teas are light and bright in colour with a crisp strong flavour that leaves the mouth feeling fresh and clean. Today, it forms part of the high-grown zone of central Sri Lanka which includes Dickoya and Nuwara Eliya.

Example – Kenilworth Estate This tea has long wiry beautiful leaves that give an exquisite, almost oaky taste with good body and strength.

Uva Region

Uva is a fine flavoured tea grown at altitudes between 2,000ft and 4,000ft above sea level onthe eastern slopes of the central mountains in Sri Lanka. It has a bright, deep amber colour when brewed, with thebrisk andcrisp, strong Ceylon flavour. These teas are also used in Ceylon blendand make an ideal morning drink or an after-lunch tea.

Example – St James Estate This is a copper-coloured infusion with a very smooth, pronounced taste and a wonderful aroma. It is a perfect breakfast or day time tea.

Nuwara Eliya Region

Nuwara Eliya teas are light and delicate in character, bright in colour and with a fragrant flavour. Their flavour is heightened when taken with lemon rather than milk.

Example – Nuwara Eliya Estate This tea has a bright brisk flavour and a wonderful perfume, good to drink at any time of day with just a dash of milk.

Ceylon Blend

Ceylon teas span the entire spectrum of tea production, from low to high grown teas. Ceylon Blends was a tradition established at the end of the 19th Century and some companies still market blended Ceylon tea as Ceylon Orange Pekoe or Ceylon BOP. A good blend will produce bright, rich, coppery liquors with a brisk fresh flavour. To ensure that a pre-packed tea is indeed 100% Pure Ceylon Tea, look for the Ceylon Tea Board Lion logo.

Ceylon tea is divided into various grades. These grade names are an indication of size or appearance of manufactured leaf and not of its quality.

BOP – Well-made, neat leaf of medium size without excessive stalk or fiber. There should not be any fine particles (fannings and dust) which are not true-to-grade.

BOP Sp – Larger in size than a BOP lack and clean in appearance. Note: BOP & BOP special be treated as two grades, but for cataloging purposes treat as one grade.

BOPF – Neat leaf, fairly clean. ….. but smaller than the BOP grade. There should not be any fine dust present.

BOP 1 – Should be wiry and twisted, but shorter than an OP1.

FBOP – Smaller/shorter than BOP1 with presence of tips, but larger than FBOPF1.

FBOP 1 – Long, twisted, wiry leaf. Fairly tippy. Longer than BOP1.

PEKOE – Shotty, curly or semi-cirly leaf of large size of any elevation.

PEKOW1 – Same as Pekoe, but smaller in size than Pekoe of any elevation. This replaces the Flowery Pekoe grade.Note: Pekoe and Fekoe 1 will be treated as two grades, but for cataloguing purposes treat as one grade.

FBOPF (FF) – Similar in size to BOP……… and must contain tips.

FBOPF 1 (FF1) – Larger than BOP. Smaller than a FBOP with a show of tips.

FBOPF – Similar in size to BOP with a fair presence of tips.

FBOPF Ex. Sp. – Small leaf and must have an attractive show of golden or silver tips with little black leaf.

FBOPF Ex. Sp1 – Leafy and must have an attractive show of golden or silver tips with little black leaf.

OP 1 – Long, wiry well or partly twisted.

OP – Less wiry than OP1, but much more twisted than OPA.

OPA – Long bold leaf tea with air twist.

BP – (Off Grades) – Should e choppy, hard leaf.

BOP 1A – (Off Grades) – Any flak leaf without stalk and fiber (Clean tea).

BM (BROKENS) – (Off Grades) Mixed flaky leaf tea. Can have more fiber and stalk than BOP 1A.

BT – (Off Grades) – All mixed teas of varying sizes, with or without stalk and fiber.

FNGS 1 (FGS1) – (Off Grades) – Flaky leaf of small size. Can contain more fiber than BOPF, but reasonably clean.

FNGS (FGS) – (Off Grades) – Same as Fannings 1. Can be more fiber and uneven and not as clean as Fannings1.

DUST1 – Smaller than BOPF. (Rainy even well-made and reasonably clean)

DUST – (Off Grades) ………… size to Dust 1. Could be flaky and contain some fiber.

SILVER TIPS – Long tippy leaf, silver in colour, with hardly any black leaf.

GOLDEN TIPS – Long tippy leaf, golden in colour, with hardly any black leaf. Note: Tips and Golden Tips are not catalogued, but sold only privately.

BP1 – Equivalent to size of a high grown BOP, but granular.

BP Special – Larger particle size than BP1.

PF 1 – Equivalent in size to grainy high grown BOPF, but granular.

OF – Smaller than the PF 1. Larger than PD.

PF – (Off Grades) – Similar or slightly larger than PF1 and may contain some fiber.

PD – Grainy Dust grade. Should be smaller than OF.

DUST 1 – Less grainy than PD. Clean.

DUST – (Off Grades) – Inferior to Dust 1. Could be powdery and fibry.

In addition, there are the various “Flowery” varieties of the main grades (e.g. FOP and FBOPF).This tea possesses extraordinary quality in liquor and is composed almost entirely of small golden tip which are the extreme ends of the small succulent shoots of the plant, and the preparation of such tea is course most costly, since it involves sorting out the tip by hand.

Only small quantities of the leafy and flowery grades are produced. The former finds their chief markets in South America, and to a lesser degree in North Africa and a few North African countries. The latter is mostly popular in the Middle East, particularly Iran. Few of the up-country estates make these grades at all. Their stable lines are BOP and BOPF such as are dominant in Britain, Australia and South Africa. The demand appears to be forever smaller and smaller leaf, and a great deal of cutting or milling is resorted today, both in countries of origin and by the packers.

Source: Forbes Tea Portal 

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