I just received a fun blogging by mail package from Clare (get it? Clar-ah-tea?). My package comes all the way from Austraila, and in a wonderful moment of synchronicitea Clare sent me sweet greek almond cookies, Violet Crumble, TimTam, and a bag of Darjeeling tea. As we just finished posting our entries for IMBB-TasteTea, receiving a bag of tea gave me a giggle.
I like tea, but oddly I’m not a habitual drinker. I have always found the notion of a tea ritual to be awfully romantic, but I don’t have one. Sweets likes tea, and will often pull me into his night time tea ritual and bring me a cup in bed. He also has developed a work place tea ritual that is taking over his coffee time. He proudly regales me with tales of how he’s being a good boy and drinking his liquids through out the day (my history of kidney stones has made liquid consumption something that we strive to be better at). Often he’ll come home from a long day and with a gleam in his eye tell me how many liters of tea he’s consumed. Liters?! Like I said, he likes tea.
Pulling out the pieces (and pieces! We had TimTam for breakfast yesterday, and as an afternoon snack!) of Clare’s package was fun; we munched on bits here and there, noting that her container of cookies from a local cake shop contained four types of almond cookies! Then upon closer inspection of the tea package did I note it was specified beyond just being Darjeeling. It had a code attached to its name! My inner geek perked up. This tea is Puttabong Estate Darjeeling, SFTGFOP-1, second flush. Oh my, it has a pedigree!
My TasteTea entry didn’t delve into tea rituals, nor did it take tea very seriously, in my mind. Heavens, I saturated it in milk fat and added sugar! Perhaps this package was a message from the Tea Gods… “Hey! Heads up this is serious stuff”!
So I put off making up Clare’s Darjeeling, and contented myself with fluffy iced bubble tea. Thinking of my serious and legitamate tea at home I felt a bit guilty for wanting something so… pop-culturey as Bubble Tea. I ordered Green Tea Bubble Tea to see if that would appease my inner tea harpy. It was good, but I felt that little nudge at the back of my head… “don’t mess with this stuff. It’s for kids. Go get yourself a proppa cup….
I came home and went straight to the Darjeeling, which I had put away in the tea drawer. I should just make it, I thought as I fondled the strands of tea. But… does tea want boiling water, or was that coffee? If I steep it too long will it get bitter? The questions came. Uncertaintea. My inner geek took over: “Look!” it said. “You’ve got a code to decipher! Now go consult your food guru and figure this out, chop chop”!
Ok, I admit it. I actually consulted a recipe for brewing tea. But it worked- it gave me a splash of cold water in the face: it’s just tea! You don’t screw it up! So I set my kettle and broke out a cute tea steeper I had picked up after being enamored of the ones seen in Crouching Tiger. The roving eye of a ceramicist never stops…
1 tsp of tea per cup of water, let it steep 4-6 minutes.
I went to my ceramics cabinet and pulled out a nice soda fired Gail Nichols tea cup. Fitting to match such an esteemed Austrailian cup to my Austrailian package goodies. The cup’s peachy interior matches the greenish peach hue of my Darjeeling tea, which I pour in, only a couple sips at a time.
Its surprisingly light. A touch floral, and makes me think of jasmine without the overwhelming perfume note. I take a cookie and nibble on it, washing it down with more tea. This time the tea becomes more fruity in my mouth. It reminds me of the flavors in the fresh coconut I just shaved to make homemade cocnut milk- a little bit like ripe melon. Most of all I am surprised that it never became bitter.
* Temperature: 196 degrees F
* Time: Two minutes
* Quantity: 4gms (flat tea spoon)
* Grade: SFTGFOP1 China Fine
* Leaf: Well sized, bold
* Liquor: Full bodied cup with some brightness and character
* Infusion: Coppery
Clare picked out a Ferrari of a tea! So… what’s with the code stuff? I found a blog entry that spells it out, get ready:
The leaf grades result exclusively from the last stage of production – the sorting stage. There are 4 basic groups in orthodox production: Leaf, Broken, Fannings and Dust. These categories specify and indicate the different leaf sizes and associated strengths.
Whole Leaf Grades:
- FTGFOP1 (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves). Mainly from Darjeeling, also some parts of Assam. Finest top-grade production; made with special care; uniform leaf, tippy.
- SFTGFOP1 (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves).
- TGFOP1/TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves / Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). Main grade in Darjeeling and Assam.
- GFOP1 (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves). Top grade in Milima and Marinyn – the only plantations in Kenya which produces leaf teas. Now less common in Assam and Darjeeling.
- FOP/FOP1 (Flowery Orange Pekoe/Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves). 2nd grade in Assam, Dooars and Bangladesh, top grade in China. Long leaf, few tips.
- OP sup (Orange Pekoe Superior) Only from Indonesia.
- OP (Orange Pekoe) Main grade in Ceylon and Java tea production. Can consist of long wiry leaf without tips.
- BOP1 (Broken Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves). Semi Leaf Tea. Specialty of “low districts” of Ceylon. Coarse, black-leaf tea, comprising roughly 40 % OP and 60 % Pekoe/BOP.
- Off grades: Some OP2 (Orange Pekoe Second Grade Leaves). Leaf tea with added ingredients, but only in Ceylon and Southern India.
Broken Leaf Grades:
- P/FP (Pekoe/Flowery Pekoe) Mainly in Ceylon and Southern India, also produced in some parts of Kenya. Usually coarser, fleshier broken leaf.
- BOP coarse (Broken Orange Pekoe) Coarse, Indonesian name for Pekoe.
- BPS (Broken Pekoe Souchong) Name for Pekoe in Assam and Darjeeling.
- TGFBOP1 (Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1) Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam. High tip content, uniform leaf.
- GFBOP1 (Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1) Mainly produced in Assam as the top broken grade; the only tippy broken from Kenya.
- GBOP (Golden Broken Orange Pekoe) Next, second-grade tea. Inhomogeneous leaf, fewer tips.
- FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe) Coarser broken with some tips from Assam, Ceylon, Indonesia, China and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken. In Southern India, Pekoe is often known as FBOP.
- BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) Main broken grade in Ceylon, Southern India, Java and China.
- BP (Broken Pekoe) From Indonesia. Ceylon, Southern India.
- FBOPF (Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery) Mainly from Ceylon’s “low districts”. A leafy BOP1 with Tips. Specialty: so-called “Spider Leaf”.
- BT (Broken Tea) From Sumatra, Ceylon, some parts of Southern India. Usually a black, open, fleshy leaf, very bulky.
- BOPF (Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings) Main grade in Ceylon, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh and China. Black-leaf tea, few added ingredients, uniform particle size, no tips. In Indonesia BOP fine, small-leaf BOP.
- TGFOF (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings).
- GFOF (Golden Flowery Orange Fannings) Finest grade in Darjeeling for teabag production.
- FOF (Flowery Orange Fannings) Common in Assam, Dooars and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.
- OF (Orange Fannings) From Northern India and some parts of Africa and South America.
- PF (Pekoe Fannings)
- D1 (Dust 1) From Ceylon, Indonesia, China, Africa, South America and Southern India.
- PD/PD1 (Pekoe Dust/Pekoe Dust 1) Mainly produced in India.
I’ve got a SFTGFOP1 (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves) in my little cup. Aren’t I special!
As for what Tippy and Pekoe and all that other wordage means…
I’m saving that study for a rainy day with my cup of tea.