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What is Orange Pekoe Tea?

Orange pekoe tea might sound like it’s named for its color or orange flavor, but this isn’t actually the case. 

Orange pekoe tea can be used to identify several different types of tea, depending on where they’re from and what quality they are. 

Orange pekoe tea refers to a tea grading system for loose leaf tea that is used for black teas from Asia. Orange pekoe teas include Indian black tea, Ceylon orange pekoe, and Sri Lankan tea. 

Most orange pekoe tea is medium quality. Orange pekoe tea contains the same health benefits as other black tea varieties. 

The term orange pekoe can be used to refer to several types and different grades of black tea. Tea drinkers, keep reading to learn more about orange pekoe tea and how it differs from other tea types in that it refers to the grade of tea. 

What Type of Tea is Orange Pekoe Tea?

Orange pekoe tea doesn’t refer to a specific kind of tea or cultivar of the tea plant. Instead, orange pekoe refers to a tea trade grading system for types of black tea that come from Asia, primarily India and Sri Lanka.

Orange pekoe doesn’t usually refer to the highest grades of tea. It is an umbrella term for many different grades of loose-leaf tea quality, from rightly rolled leaf buds of the highest quality to lesser quality broken leaves. 

what is orange pekoe tea
Orange pekoe tea is a type of black tea.

Where Does the Name Orange Pekoe Come From?

While the name orange pekoe might make it sound like pekoe is an orange-flavored tea, this isn’t the case. Instead, the name orange pekoe has two possible origins: 

  • Transliteration: Some people believe that the name “orange pekoe” is a phonetic transliteration of the Chinese word for the youngest leaves and buds of tea plants. 
  • Orange-Nassau: Some people believe that the name “orange pekoe” originates with the Dutch royal house of Orange-Nassau, which was known for its demand for high quality tea. It may be that the Dutch East India Company wanted the public to associate this tea with the Dutch royal family to make it seem extra special. 

Regardless of the origin of the term, orange pekoe is used to identify the condition of tea. 

This condition determines what type of blends the tea is included in and how expensive it is at the market.

The Orange Pekoe Grading System

The main purpose of the orange pekoe grading system is to determine the quality of leaf teas for classification on the market.  Orange pekoe is the start of the grading system with teas going higher or lower in quality.

There are different classification systems for regular orange pekoe tea as well as broken leaf orange pekoe tea. Here are the main orange pekoe black tea leaf grades:

  • Pekoe (P): smaller, shorter leaves than OP
  • Orange Pekoe (OP): thin, long, tightly rolled tea leaves
  • Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP): looser roll, but longer leaf than OP
  • Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP): FOP with some golden tips
  • Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: (TGFOP): GFOP with more golden tips
  • Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP): Better quality than TGFOP
  • Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP): OP leaves that are broken
  • Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP): FOP leaves that are broken

Qualities of Orange Pekoe Tea

Because orange pekoe tea can include several different cultivars and tea regions, the qualities of orange pekoe can vary from blend to blend. 

These are the traits that orange pekoe teas all have in common: 

  • Orange pekoe tea is not orange. While some people may think the name of orange pekoe tea is related to its tea liquor color, orange pekoe tea is indistinguishable in its dark color from other black tea blends. 
  • Orange pekoe tea has caffeine in it. The primary ingredient in orange pekoe tea is cured black tea leaves that contain caffeine, a chemical compound responsible for increased energy and focus. 
  • Orange pekoe does not have oranges in it. While some orange pekoe tea blends include orange, bergamot, or other citrus, the name orange pekoe does not reference the fruit, and orange pekoe tea does not traditionally contain it.

Along with these qualities, another trait of orange pekoe tea is that it is easy to prepare. 

orange pekoe is black tea
Orange pekoe is a black tea which comes from the camellia sinensis plant.

Making Orange Pekoe Tea

Orange pekoe tea is a black tea variety, so the process of brewing it is relatively simple. The supplies you need to make orange pekoe tea include the following: 

  • A saucepan or electric kettle
  • Orange pekoe tea (either looseleaf in a tea infuser or tea bags)
  • Water (one cup of water per every teaspoon of tea used)

To make orange pekoe tea, heat the water in your saucepan or kettle to boiling. Next, add your orange pekoe tea to the water, taking it off the heat. Allow the tea bags or tea infuser to steep for three to five minutes.

The strength of your orange pekoe tea will depend on how long you steep the tea and how much tea you use in proportion to the amount of water you use. 

To make a stronger tea, let the tea steep for a longer period, and increase the tea-to-water ratio to use more tea per cup of water. 

How to Serve Orange Pekoe Tea

Orange pekoe tea is black tea, so it is generally served with a splash of milk and sugar. Orange pekoe tea is also commonly served with a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon for additional flavor. 

As a substitute for sugar, agave nectar or artificial sweeteners can also be used in place of sugar for sweetening orange pekoe tea.  

Health Benefits of Orange Pekoe Tea

Orange pekoe tea is a healthy tea to drink because it contains several chemicals and botanical compounds that have a positive impact on physical health. 

These are just a few of the health benefits of orange pekoe tea: 

  • Caffeine: Orange pekoe tea is a good source of caffeine, a botanical compound that can lead to increased focus and a boost of extra energy. 
  • Antioxidant properties: Black tea like orange pekoe tea contains a high level of antioxidants, chemicals that help eliminate free radicals in the body and prevent degenerative diseases like cancer.
  • Improved gut flora: The polyphenols in orange pekoe tea are good for cultivating healthy bacteria in the gut, and improving digestion. Black tea is also antimicrobial, which means drinking it regularly can help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria in the gut.
  • Reduced blood pressure: Regular intake of orange pekoe tea can lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. This can help prevent related disorders such as stroke and heart attack. 
  • Reduced blood sugar levels: Drinking black tea like orange pekoe tea can lead to reduced blood sugar levels over time. This helps prevent a wide range of health problems from obesity and kidney failure to diabetes and depression.

Along with its range of health benefits, orange pekoe tea does not have many negative side effects. 

Other than some mild nausea or headache if too much tea is consumed, leading to an overdose of caffeine, drinking black tea is more likely to make a person feel well rather than ill. 

Orange Pekoe Tea Is a Mid-Range Black Tea

While it might sound exotic, the term “orange pekoe tea” simply refers to a black tea variety of medium quality from certain parts of Asia.

Orange pekoe tea is a delicious option for anyone who wants a versatile form of black tea that can be used in multiple drinks and dishes. 

what is orange pekoe black tea good for
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