January 19, 2023 2 min read

Some of you may have heard of the term “Orange Pekoe” or “Ceylon Orange Pekoe”; Terms that can be found in tea tasting rooms across the world, especially in Sri Lanka & India.

But what does Orange Pekoe (OP) actually refer to? 

Does the tea taste citrussy; Does the tea have extra vitamin C; Does the tea look orange in colour?

Well it is none of the above!

A wiry, twisted well made Orange Pekoe

OP refers to a particular grade of tea, and a well-made OP is typically a wiry twisted leaf. The term Orange is found right through the tea grading system and it can be combined with other letters to make the description more specific. So for example letters in front of O refers to whether it is a Flowery grade or a Broken grade. i.e. F.B.O.P refers to “Flowery Orange Pekoe” or  “Broken Orange Pekoe” or in some cases both “Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe”. 

Orange was derived from the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie VOC), who were responsible for introducing tea to Europe from China. Pekoe is a corruption of the mandarin word “Bai Hoe”, which refers to the white feather tipped teas that we today known as “Silver Tips”. The first teas that landed in The Netherlands were presented to the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange, and as a result they were known as “Orange Pekoe” and granted a Royal Warrant, a mark of distinction.

A well made cup of high grown Oramge Pekoe

Orange Pekoe has survived for more than three centuries; however today’s OP teas look and taste nothing like the original Bai Hoe Yen Zhin teas from years gone by. 

OP teas, due to their wiry leaves, make excellent light liquoring teas, perfect for afternoon tea and add an extra special touch to a luxurious cream tea. 

Inverness tasting profile

One the best Orange Pekoe made in Sri Lanka, is that of Inverness Estate. Inverness is found in Nuwara Eliya and produces a classic flavour with a distinctive freshly baked biscuit note. 

For those of you who are intrigued to try a Bai Hoe Yen Zhin then our Silver Tips are a perfect example.

Stephen McAlister
Stephen McAlister