All about Orange Pekoe Tea

If you’re a tea drinker, you may have come across the term ‘orange pekoe’. But do you know what the term actually means? Here, we take a peek at the name, definition, and origin of orange pekoe tea. Plus, we give you a glimpse of our three new Nerada Director’s Cut orange pekoe teas, which we’ve launched exclusively online to celebrate 50 years of the Nerada brand. 

What is Orange Pekoe Tea?

Names can be deceiving. You’d be forgiven for assuming that orange pekoe tea is a flavour or blend of tea – or simply the colour of the tea. Surprisingly, however, orange pekoe tea is not orange, neither does it smell nor taste of oranges. It’s not a specific blend of tea, either.

Instead, orange pekoe is part of a classification system for black tea, based on the origin, quality and size of the leaves. Orange pekoe, then, is a particular grade of black tea. Orange pekoe on the label is a gauge of premium quality and signifies that the tea consists of whole loose leaves only.

The grading system, which applies to the final, sorting stage of tea production, comprises five categories that indicate different leaf sizes and tea strengths. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick to two grades here: orange pekoe (OP) and flowery orange pekoe (FOP), as they are the two grades most similar to what we use in our limited-edition teas. To call it pekoe, the tea must comprise only the leaf bud and its two youngest leaves. This segment of the tea leaf is known as a flush.

  • Flowery Orange Pekoe – produced from the tip of the bud of the tea plant and the two youngest leaves of each shoot. At Nerada, we handmake our Flowery Orange Pekoe tea, with a slightly larger leaf, on our rolling table to give us a quality brew.
  • Orange Pekoe – a whole-leaf tea that shows no tip. The leaves may be full, or they can be broken, which is referred to as broken orange pekoe (BOP). Sometimes this type of tea has a smaller leaf.

Why is Tea Called Orange Pekoe?

The history behind the name ‘orange pekoe’ is a bit vague, but a couple of theories have emerged based on facts we know. One school of thought is that orange pekoe comes from a Chinese word for a special Chinese tea that boasts white, downy hairs on the tips of the youngest and smallest tea leaves on the plant. (Funnily enough, though, Chinese black teas typically don’t use this tea grading system.)    

Another theory attributes the term to the famed early-17th-century Dutch East India Company, a massive trading enterprise of the time. The Dutch royal family belonged to the House of Orange. The Dutch East India Company brought teas to Europe, setting aside the best black teas for the royals. The story goes that when this tea became accessible to the public, people nicknamed it the 'orange' pekoe for its association with the royal family.

Regardless of its heritage, tea drinkers of the Western world generally use the term ‘orange pekoe’ for black teas from India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Asia.

What Does Orange Pekoe Tea Taste Like?

The tea master, who blends the tea, and the origin of the tea very much determine the flavour profile of orange pekoe tea. Orange pekoe tea often has a deep and intense flavour profile.

Australian-grown orange pekoe tea is typically full bodied, whereas the flowery orange pekoe is aromatic and ideally consumed without milk to appreciate the more delicate characters of the uniquely Australian terroir.

How to Make Orange Pekoe Tea

Our range of orange pekoe tea comes in loose-leaf format. For a delicious cuppa, use about 3 grams of tea leaves (a bit less than a teaspoon) for every cup of boiling water, and steep them for approximately three to five minutes, depending on your preferred strength. Drink it with or without milk.

Is Orange Pekoe Tea Good for You?

Similar to other black teas, OP-grade tea contains antioxidants, which can boost our immune system.

Rolling Out Our New Nerada 50th Anniversary Teas 

Our three Director’s Cut blends, commemorating our 50th anniversary, make their delicious debut online on Thursday 5 August 2021.

We have carefully handcrafted this premium tea trio using 100% Australian ingredients.


Nerada Tea Tins on a orange, yellow, green backdrop


  • Director’s Cut Original Black Tea – handcrafted on our Malanda tea plantation in the Atherton Tablelands – comes from parcels of our finest grade of tea. It’s a single-origin orange pekoe loose-leaf blend with rich aromas and full-bodied liquor. Drink it with or without milk.
  • Director’s Cut Sunrise Black Tea with Lemon Myrtle is a single-origin flowery orange pekoe loose-leaf tea carefully blended with lemon myrtle. Rolled in the ancient way on our rolling table, this delicious aromatic brew has an underlying flavour of Australian lemon myrtle. To enjoy the subtle flavour, we recommend drinking it without milk.
  • Director’s Cut Indulge Black Tea with Cocoa is a rich, chocolatey blend of our single-origin orange pekoe loose-leaf tea, that combines cocoa to make a velvety and malty blend.
These blends are available exclusively at our online store, so click your way there, then get the kettle ready!