How do the plucking standards of tea (imperial pluck, fine pluck, …) actually relate to the leaf grades?

PG Tips claims “we pick the top two leaves and a bud known as the tips”, so that would be called ‘fine pluck’ in the following diagram:

plucking diagram

But going by the following diagram, we wouldn't get an orange pekoe with a fine pluck – that doesn't feel right.

black tea leaf grading

So how do they relate? Or does it differ from region to region? Maybe I'm wrong but it seems in Nilgiri even expensive teas are designated with less “colorful grades”.

  • 1
    "Orange pekoe" in grading terms refers to the dry leaf product not how the product was picked. PG Tips like most mass market brands uses CTC tea in their tea bags.
    – user50726
    Dec 10, 2018 at 4:33
  • @aris what about this? “Orange Pekoe” refers to the leaves as on the tea plant from which the product originates, not its dry leaves.
    – viuser
    Dec 10, 2018 at 12:14
  • I can't say for sure, but I don't think there's a relationship between the grading terms used in CTC tea and the grading term used for other types. But if you notice on that chart linked to that "orange pekoe" doesn't even appear, presumably because CTC tea of even the highest grade is of very small pieces, and perhaps using the term would just cause confusion as we're talking different kinds of tea.
    – user50726
    Dec 10, 2018 at 18:39
  • But yes it does vary from region to region as well. Standard and special grades in different regions are different. The standard grade of Darjeeling for example is TFGOP or something like that, and something special would have an S or a number or other descriptor to indicate it's actually a higher than standard garde. Meanwhile, the standard grade of Ceylon is Orange Pekoe and the highest grade used for Ceylon tea is OPA.
    – user50726
    Dec 10, 2018 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


The importance of leaf grade differs mainly between tea types and to a lesser extend between regions. For green tea picking is the most important. And the finer the pluck the more expensive it is. Anything between just a bud up to one bud and two leaves are considered premium.

However, for oolong and pu erh tea this is less important. For example with pu erh, you sometimes buy very expensive tea that consists of very large leaves, yet they may be expensive as they're from old arbor trees from famous regions. There's a grading system for pu erh though when it comes to blends. For more info you can read this post: pu erh tea grading system. Still, the higher the grade of the raw leaves, doesn't mean that the is better or more expensive. In fact, many prefer pu erh teas made from bigger leaves. When such leaves go through fermentation, it results in a sweeter flavour, while small leaves and buds result in more complexity. The latter is less durable though when it comes to the amount of brews.

As for oolong, I rarely see oolong teas made from just one bud one leaf, as it's far from optimal for the taste (this is due to a more intensive processing methodology applied relative to green tea).

At last, for white tea and yellow tea the grade of the leaves become a more important determining factor.

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