Most people are familiar with the term “Orange Pekoe” and assume this refers to a kind of tea. But, in fact, this term is used by the tea industry to denote a particular size of black tea leaf. One purpose of grading and sorting is to ensure the uniformity of the leaf size. Drinking whole leaf tea allows one to experience a wide range of complex flavour profiles. This does not imply that smaller, broken, leaf tea is of poorer quality just that a tea’s taste and body will vary depending upon leaf size. For example: breakfast tea, like English Breakfast, is commonly made with smaller broken leaves to ensure that a pungent and robust cup of morning tea results.
For centuries tea was enjoyed in loose form, but around 1904, along came tea bags. Due to convenience this resulted in tea bags making up better than 90% of the market. These bags, however, usually contain the lowest grades of tea available known as “fannings” or “dust.” These are the lowest rankings that tea can achieve, and with this as the new standard, it was not surprising that tea faded in popularity. However, confirmed tea baggers need not despair, the tea bag quality has since greatly improved.