Types of Tea

Tea from Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
Sri Lanka has over 188,000 hectares under tea cultivation yielding about 298,000 tonnes of "made" tea, and accounting for more than 19% of world exports.

In 1972, the island then known as Ceylon reverted to the traditional name of Sri Lanka, but retained the brand name of Ceylon for the marketing of its teas.

Sri Lanka is blessed with diverse climatic conditions and our pioneer tea planters realized the effect on these diverse conditions on tea production. This gave rise to a wide range of teas which are unique to to each other in style, taste and character from different agro climatic districts. The teas produced from these districts are referred to by Tea Trade as teas from “ Dimbula, Uva, Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Kandy and Ruhuna”. The true connoisseurs may select teas from a sub district or even a single garden where the uniqueness is unmatched.

Agro Climatic Districts


This agro climatic districtt is the most famous name inCeylonon Tea and is considered the prime planting district in Sri Lanka. The district covers an extensive area from around 3500ft to 5000ft above sea level in the western slopes of the country. The mountains and the valleys extend from Bogawantalwa and Maskeliya bordering the Adams Peak wilderness , to Hatton,Dickoya and Talawakelle, Nanuoya up too the western boundary of Nuwara Eliya. It also extend up to Agrapatana bordering the Horton Planes.

The district receives the south western monsoonal rains which has an impact on the quality of the Dimbula Tea , the cold nights and dry weather from January to March bring about a rage of teas from full bodied to light delicate flavor in different valleys.

The sub district which falls within the Dimbula Agro Climatic District are Hatton / Dickoya, Bogawantalwa - also known as the “Golden Valley”, Upcot / Maskeliya -which is at the foothills of sacred Adams Peak Mountain, Patana/ Kotagala, Nanu oya / Talawakelle, Agrapatana - situated more towards the eastern range, Punadaluu Oya, Ramboda - famous for the breathtaking water falls.


Uva Agro Climaticc Plantingdistrictct is situated in eastern slopes of the central hills of Sri Lanka and tea is grown from 3000 to 5000ft above mean sea level. The district is famous for its distinctive flavour and pungency during the Quality season form July to September each year which are sought after by the connoisseurs of tea world over.

The sub districts are Malwatte / Welimada -well known world over for the teas of pungent character produced during the quality season, Demodara/ Hali Ela/ Badulla - which is more into the central Uva District with the capital being at Badulla. Passara / Lunugala, Madulsima, Ella/ Namunukula - situated on the slopes of Naminukula mountain range which is the tallest mountain in Uva, Bandarawela / Poonagalla, Haputale - situated at the edge of the central hills and Koslanda / Haldummulla situated at the foothills of the central hills.

Uda Pussellawa:

Uda Pussellawa mountain range rise up from the boundary of Uva Districtat the lower end and joins up to Nuwara Eliya Planting District at highest point. It receives the North East Monsoon rains as in the Uva District but does not produce teas of same quality and flavour as in the Uva.

The estates closer to the Nuwara Eliya benefit from the cold weather conditions and is famous for producing a tea with “Rosy Liquor”.

The sub districts are Maturata and Ragala / Halgran Oya.

Nuwara Eliya:

Nuwara Eliya is a plateau at an elevation of 6240ft above sea level. The cold weather and freshness of the air always scented with the fragrance of cypress that grows in abundance in the area no doubt helps in producing a tea that is sought after by connoisseurs of tea world over. The tea itself is light in cup with exquisite flavour and aroma.


The district can boast of the origin of the plantation industry in Sri Lanka, firstly Coffee and thereafter Tea. The plantations are spread out from elevation of 2000 – 4000ft above sea level and falls within the Mid Grown Elevation Category.

The product is of a full bodied, coloury and strong tea.

The sub districts are Pussellawa / Hewaheta and Matale which includes plantations in Madulkelle, Knuckles and Rangala mountain range.


Tea grows from almost form the sea level to around 2000ft above, and is considered as low grown elevation category.

The uniqueness of the tea is the blackness as well as the strength and character in the cup with stylish range of leafy teas.

The district is in the midst of the national heritage forest reservee “Sinharaja” a congenial atmosphere is created by this forest reserve for the plantations bordering thereserve..

The region mainly receives South West Monsoon rains, the tea bushes thrive in the warm weather conditions and the fertile soils of the district.

The sub districts are Ratnapura/ Balangoda – This sub district is well pprotectedby the Sinharaja forest reserve form the strong winds that accompany South West Monsoon rains.

Deniyaya – Located to the south of Ratnapura. Matara – Located to the south of Deniyaya.

Galle – Tea is grown in this sub district in the midst of fragrant spice cultivations, Rubber and also Oil Palm.

Ceylon Blend
Ceylon teas span the entire spectrum of tea production, from low to high grown teas. Ceylon Blends was a tradition established at the end of the 19th Century and some companies still market blended Ceylon tea as Ceylon Orange Pekoe or Ceylon BOP. A good blend will produce bright, rich, coppery liquors with a brisk fresh flavour. To ensure that a pre-packed tea is indeed 100% Pure Ceylon Tea, look for the Ceylon Tea Board Lion logo.

Grades of Tea
Ceylon tea is divided into various grades. These grade names are an indication of size or appearance of manufactured leaf and not of its quality. 

BOP - Well-made, neat leaf of medium size without excessive stalk or fiber. There should not be any fine particles (fannings and dust) which are not true-to-grade.

BOP Sp - Larger in size than a BOP lack and clean in appearance. Note: BOP & BOP special be treated as two grades, but for cataloging purposes treat as one grade. 

BOPF - Neat leaf, fairly clean. ….. but smaller than the BOP grade. There should not be any fine dust present.

BOP 1 - Should be wiry and twisted, but shorter than an OP1.

FBOP - Smaller/shorter than BOP1 with presence of tips, but larger than FBOPF1.

FBOP 1 - Long, twisted, wiry leaf. Fairly tippy. Longer than BOP1.

PEKOE - Shotty, curly or semi-cirly leaf of large size of any elevation.

PEKOE1 - Same as Pekoe, but smaller in size than Pekoe of any elevation. This replaces the Flowery Pekoe grade.Note: Pekoe and Fekoe 1 will be treated as two grades, but for cataloguing purposes treat as one grade.

FBOPF (FF) - Similar in size to BOP……… and must contain tips.

FBOPF 1 (FF1) - Larger than BOP. Smaller than a FBOP with a show of tips.

FBOPF - Similar in size to BOP with a fair presence of tips.

FBOPF Ex. Sp. - Small leaf and must have an attractive show of golden or silver tips with little black leaf.

FBOPF Ex. Sp1 - Leafy and must have an attractive show of golden or silver tips with little black leaf.

OP 1 - Long, wiry well or partly twisted.

OP - Less wiry than OP1, but much more twisted than OPA.

OPA - Long bold leaf tea with air twist.

BP - (Off Grades) – Should e choppy, hard leaf.

BOP 1A - (Off Grades) – Any flak leaf without stalk and fiber (Clean tea).

BM (BROKENS) - (Off Grades) Mixed flaky leaf tea. Can have more fiber and stalk than BOP 1A.

BT - (Off Grades) – All mixed teas of varying sizes, with or without stalk and fiber.

FNGS 1 (FGS1) - (Off Grades) – Flaky leaf of small size. Can contain more fiber than BOPF, but reasonably clean. 

FNGS (FGS) - (Off Grades) – Same as Fannings 1. Can be more fiber and uneven and not as clean as Fannings1.

DUST1 - Smaller than BOPF. (Rainy even well-made and reasonably clean)

DUST - (Off Grades) ………… size to Dust 1. Could be flaky and contain some fiber.

SILVER TIPS - Long tippy leaf, silver in colour, with hardly any black leaf.

GOLDEN TIPS - Long tippy leaf, golden in colour, with hardly any black leaf. Note: Tips and Golden Tips are not catalogued, but sold only privately.

BP1 - Equivalent to size of a high grown BOP, but granular.

BP Special - Larger particle size than BP1.

PF 1 - Equivalent in size to grainy high grown BOPF, but granular.

OF - Smaller than the PF 1. Larger than PD.

PF - (Off Grades) – Similar or slightly larger than PF1 and may contain some fiber.

PD - Grainy Dust grade. Should be smaller than OF.

DUST 1 - Less grainy than PD. Clean.

DUST - (Off Grades) – Inferior to Dust 1. Could be powdery and fibry.

In addition, there are the various “Flowery” varieties of the main grades (e.g. FOP and FBOPF).This tea possesses extraordinary quality in liquor and is composed almost entirely of small golden tip which are the extreme ends of the small succulent shoots of the plant, and the preparation of such tea is course most costly, since it involves sorting out the tip by hand. 

Only small quantities of the leafy and flowery grades are produced. The former finds their chief markets in South America, and to a lesser degree in North Africa and a few North African countries. The latter is mostly popular in the Middle East, particularly Iran. Few of the up-country estates make these grades at all. Their stable lines are BOP and BOPF such as are dominant in Britain, Australia and South Africa. The demand appears to be forever smaller and smaller leaf, and a great deal of cutting or milling is resorted today, both in countries of origin and by the packers.

About F&W

Forbes & Walker was set up in 1881 as a partnership between James Forbes and Chapmen Walker. Although there is no actual record of the date on which it was established the very first cash book, still in the possession of the Finance Director, indicates the brokerages were earned from 1st August 1881. In Sir Thomas Villiers' book “Mercantile Lore” the date of establishment of Forbes & Walker has been put down      Read More...

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