What is Orange Pekoe Tea? Why is it Popular?

Updated on: April 13, 2023
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What is Orange Pekoe Tea

You probably heard someone ask for this, and now you're wondering: "What is Orange Pekoe Tea?" 

Is it orange-flavored tea? And if so, what is the "Pekoe" part? If not, then what the heck is it...

Don't worry this article will explain it all; its taste, its health benefits, its color leaf grading system, and how to properly brew Orange Pekoe tea to get the most out of it!

So, if you're excited to learn something new, then grab yourself a cuppa tea, and let’s get started.

What is Orange Pekoe Tea?

Orange pekoe tea is a grade of loose-leaf black tea used for black teas originating in South Asian countries, usually Southern India or Sri Lanka.

Despite the word “orange,” orange pekoe tea is not orange-flavored. It does not contain or taste like oranges.

Orange pekoe black tea leaves are made from the youngest leaves or, sometimes, buds of the Camellia sinensis (tea plant). This type of tea is rich in taste and has a delicate yet floral aroma. As we will see below, many orange pekoe tea grades exist. Orange pekoe tea is the lowest grade of loose-leaf black tea.

The word “pekoe,” which is pronounced as “peek-oo,” comes from the Chinese word “pey ho,” meaning white down or fresh young tea leaves. The orange pekoe tea’s orange part is most likely a reference to the House of Orange, which had ties to the Dutch East India Company.

In the 1600s, the company began bringing teas to Europe. Pekoe tea was the best black tea reserved for the Dutch royal family. When made available to the public, it was called orange pekoe, which evoked images of royalty.

Orange pekoe tea has a medium level of caffeine. The amount of caffeine depends on the tea type, how it is grown and processed, how much tea you add to your cup, and how long you steep it.

On average, a 6-oz serving of orange pekoe tea contains around 34mg of caffeine. For reference, the FDA recommends a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine per day.

Flavored Black Tea - Darjeeling Tea

Tea Grading System for Orange Pekoe Tea

As noted, orange pekoe tea is further classified into other loose-leaf tea grades. When teas are processed into a bagged tea, the term “broken” refers to the leaves. Fannings and dust are tiny remnants created during the sorting and crushing process.

There are variations of orange pekoe tea, including the tea plant’s flowers, tips, and buds. Here are some examples of the tea grading system for orange pekoe tea.

Orange pekoe is the lowest grade of black loose-leaf tea.

But it is still considered good quality even though it is graded as orange pekoe because the tea is made from whole leaves rather than dust and fragments, like in tea bags.

Orange pekoe grade classification is represented by the letters OP, and orange pekoe refers to other higher grades of tea.

Here are some other variations of pekoe tea regarding leaves, flowers, tips, or buds.

  1. OP (orange pekoe): The lowest grade of black loose-leaf tea consists of long wiry leaves without tips. OP is the primary classification, but it is further divided into OPA (bolder than OP), OPS (superior OP in Indonesia), and OP1 (more delicate than OP).

  2. FOP (flowery orange pekoe): Made from large leaves, plucked during the second or third flush with abundant tips.

  3. GFOP (golden flowery orange pekoe): It has a higher proportion of tips than FOP but is less popular in Assam Black Tea and Darjeeling Black Tea

  4. TGOP (tippy golden flowery orange pekoe): Assam and Darjeeling teas' primary grade contains the most tips. Golden flowery refers to young tips or buds picked early in the season.

  5. FTGOP (finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe): This is the highest tea grade of orange pekoe teas. 

In addition to whole tea leaves and broken orange pekoe tea leaves, there are tea dust and tea fannings which have different grades depending on size and country of origin. These are of lower quality and are what tea bags contain.

Broken-leaf tea is a grading term used to describe tea made from the "third leaf" of a tea plant. When you steep or soak broken pekoe, it produces a copper-colored cup with a fruity aroma. An example of a flowery broken orange pekoe tea is Assam black tea. 

What Does Orange Pekoe Tea Taste Like?

Orange pekoe tea can be strong, light, sweet, malty, or fresh. If you are planning on purchasing a generic version of Pekoe tea, expect it to be light in color and somewhat malty.

Different leaves indeed have different flavors, depending on many variables. Suppose your orange pekoe tea is from Indian black teas. It may taste malty, spicy, and smoky. If your tea is from Sri Lanka, it may be fruitier, lighter, and sweeter. 

Even within the same region, you could have different tea taste profiles given differing cultivation altitudes, soil composition, and other factors.

Look for blends with more buds than leaves for a more robust tea. The astringent bud is likely to contain more caffeine than the non-astringent one. Most loose-leaf teas are lighter and more delicate than their broken counterparts.

Long, curly leaves release their full flavor more slowly than short ones. The more letters in the abbreviation of your tea, the lighter it will taste.

Therefore a tea labeled “finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe” will be lighter than “orange pekoe.”

How to Prepare Orange Pekoe Tea

Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

Now that you’ve learned more about orange pekoe tea, the best way to taste it is to try it yourself. If you want to try orange pekoe tea, here's how to prepare it the proper way.

Given that the best way to enjoy orange pekoe tea is to have it as a whole leaf, we will assume you have a tea infuser. If you don't, then check out how to make loose leaf tea without a strainer.

  1. Use fresh, cold, and filtered water for your tea

  2. The first thing you must do is boil your water

  3. Measure about 2 to 3g of tea for every cup of water

  4. Add the leaves to the tea infuser

  5. Depending on how strong you would like your tea to taste, steep the tea for three to five minutes. Adding more tea leaves is better than increasing the steeping time if you prefer a stronger tea

  6. After steeping, remove the leaves and pour yourself a cup of tea

Health Benefits of Orange Pekoe Tea

Orange pekoe tea is a grade of black tea. It isn’t dissimilar to other black teas that people regularly enjoy, like other Indian black teas or Chinese black teas.

The studies mentioned below focus on the benefits of black tea in general. Though there may be possible differences linked to the tea grade, the benefits listed are those researchers observe to occur across the board. 

Research specifically focused on the orange pekoe tea grade is limited. Still, the body of research on black tea is growing, specifically studies on how black tea is beneficial to health:

  1. It is high in antioxidants: Black tea, similar to green tea, is rich in antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of developing chronic disorders and contribute to improving one’s health overall. Drinking three cups of tea daily may enhance the body's antioxidant status (1).

  2. It reduces the risk of heart disease: Researchers have found that drinking tea may reduce risks of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality (2). 

  3. It helps enhance insulin action: Researchers showed that drinking black teas, similar to green teas, may help protect against diabetes mellitus by enhancing insulin action and ameliorating insulin resistance (3). 

  4. It improves your gut health: Initial studies have shown that drinking tea, including black tea, may benefit gut health by mediating gut microbiota (4). 

  5. It provides antibacterial effects: Drinking black tea has shown antibacterial properties against Streptococcus mutans (5), which is one of the causes of tooth decay (6). 

  6. It helps fight free radicals: Black tea helps inhibit free radicals in the body (7) because of the antioxidant properties in this drink. Free radicals are unstable molecules that could build up in cells and damage other molecules, like lipids, proteins, and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Such damage may increase the risk of developing cancer and other illnesses. 

  7. It has weight loss benefits: This type of tea, similar to green tea, is also associated with weight loss. According to a study, black tea has polyphenols that aid in weight loss (8).

  8. It helps improve alertness and focus: individuals consuming black tea performed better at cognitive tasks (10). Daily intake of black tea, including the orange pekoe tea grade, is a great way to improve brain health and mental focus. To learn more about enhancing mental focus, read this article.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does orange pekoe tea have orange in it?

No, it doesn’t. Though the term orange pekoe may be confusing, orange pekoe tea doesn’t mean the drink is orange flavored or has orange zests. Orange pekoe is a black tea grade. 

How long do you need to steep your tea?

For black tea, steeping the tea in hot water for three to five minutes is recommended. Soaking it too much will produce a strong bitter taste, while quickly steeping it leaves you with a flavorless cup of hot water. 

Does orange pekoe tea have caffeine?

Yes, it does. Black tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine: around the caffeine content of half a cup of coffee. However, it’s challenging to give a precise number due to many factors affecting its concentration, like tea varieties, harvest time, growing practices, and processing methods. 

Orange Pekoe Tea


Orange pekoe tea is known for its taste and health benefits, making it a highly favored choice by many tea lovers. If you appreciate this type of tea, you should be prepared to spend a few minutes brewing it.


Most people enjoy a nice cup of black tea, which will remain an essential staple in the world of tea. However, adding orange pekoe tea to your list can add variety to your tea choices. 

Orange pekoe tea has similar benefits to regular black tea, so you might want to add this one drink to your next tea party!

Felipe is a tea expert with an engineering background! He loves to drink and learn all about tea and coffee. His love for tea was discovered while living in Japan and his favorites are Sencha & Pu'er!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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