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Tea 201 - FTGFOP - Leaf Classifications and What They Mean

A good illustration of FTGFOP
A good illustration of FTGFOP

FTGFOP. Phew what a mouthful!  It feels like a code of some kind.  In a way it is.  It is actually an acronym for Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.  It is considered the highest grade of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.  The acronym states exactly what this type of classification: it’s the finest, with lots of tips, flowery…oh and it’s orange pekoe.

I will digress briefly because I would like to explain what orange pekoe is.  I’m sure you have seen it around in the grocery store.  When I first saw it, I assumed that it was black tea with some orange for flavoring.  Actually, this tea has nothing to do with orange; it’s a misnomer.  It is actually a typical black tea of medium size leaf.

The word pekoe apparently comes from a mispronounced transliteration of a word for Chinese tea known as white down/hair (白毫;Pe̍h-ōe-jī: pe̍h-ho). This refers to the white hairs on the leaf.

The origin of the word ‘orange’ is a little tricky.  It’s not related to an orange flavor.  One possible origin is that the Dutch East India Company marketed the tea as orange in reference to the Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau.

Another possible origin is that the name refers to the leaves copper color of high quality oxidization before drying.  Or it could refer to the bright orange color of the dried pekoes in the finished tea.

There are actually more acronyms out there.  In fact, there is a whole list of grades for orthodox black tea.  There are lists for whole leaves, for whole broken leaves as well as fanning grades.

Oh! I almost forgot, among some tea aficionados, there is a another meaning for the acronym FTGFOP: Far Too Good for Ordinary People. Ha! What do you think?