The tea tree is a shrub belonging to the Camelia family. In China, it is better known by the name of « Camelia Sinensis » (ramifications from the base), whereas in Assam, the tea tree is known as « Camelia Assamica » (a common trunk with longer and greener leaves). In a natural environment, a tea tree can attain 20 meters high. The oldest tea tree in the world is 3600 year old and is located in Yunnan, China. A cultivated tea tree can be trimmed and cut back, which is often the case on plantations.




The Pekoe shoot tip (or down in Chinese) is the youngest extremity of the branch and is therefore the freshest and contains the most vitamins, oligoelements, nutriments and other constituents that account for all of the virtues of tea. The leaves that are harvested from a tea tree are generally the freshest and youngest leaves found at the extremities of the branches. There are three types of harvests:

> Imperial Plucking or Harvest: only the Pekoe (the first three leaves at the extremity of a branch) is plucked from the tree.
> Fine or Classic Harvest: the Pekoe and the two following leaves are picked.
> Coarse Harvest: the Pekoe and the following four leaves are picked.

All of the tea colours (green, yellow, white, black, red… etc) come from the same tree and the same harvest.

To know more about tea colours




Teas are generally catalogued or ranked by the size of the leaves, which can be translated into grades. There are three principal grades which determine the size and fineness of tea leaves:

> Long and unbroken leaf:
- OP (Orange Pekoe)
- FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe) exists in several subdivisions, STGFOP1, STGFOP, FTGFOP, GFOP.
- Souchong: large leaves rolled lengthwise. These correspond to a harvest of five leaves.
- Pekoe

> Broken leaf:
- FP

> Ground leaf:
- Fanings
- Dust

These tea grades are generally used in most producing countries and concern mostly oxidized teas. Long leaf green teas are generally referred to by the type of leaf (rolled, spiral, twisted…). Yellow, white, oolong or Pu’Er teas often carry the name of the plantation or region rather than the notion of grade. But, whatever the name or colour of the tea or the condition of the leaf (ground or dust), the same grades are generally used for all oxidized teas (FP, BOP, BFOP etc...).