Tea Grading Question

This question concerns the tea business and the larger tea estates of India. How do most tea gardens go about picking and sorting their tea? If I am drinking a Goomtee First Flush FTGFOP1 from The Republic of Tea, is it going to be the same tea as an Upton Goomtee First Flush FTGFOP1?

18 Replies
Lala said

I have a very basic answer for you. Upton and Republic of Tea would most like have different plantations. Larger tea companies will likely have their own plantation from which their tea is harvested, and no one else can get tea from that plantation. So I would think they would not be the same. But they would meet the requirements to both be considered first flush FTGFOP1. It may help you to look up the requirements of certain grades of tea. Smaller tea companies often cannot afford to source teas from large plantations, so they get tea from smaller ones.

Hi Lala. Thank you for your input. I’m confused, though. Isn’t Goomtee the name of a specific tea plantation (the same that both Upton and Republic of Tea buy from)?

I do know about the grading system and what the letters stand for, I just wonder if a tea plantation might make more than one first flush FTGFOP1 (just as an example), maybe they would keep what was picked from different areas of the plantation separate?

I live on and work at a winery, and we usually make at least one special Cabernet a year from a certain section of the vineyard. Would a tea plantation ever do something similar?

momo said

Yeah, Goomtee is a specific estate: http://www.goomtee.com/editor.php Their retailer list is way out of date though.

Maybe ask them! I was trying to find if that’s on there but it seems to me it’d be the same tea given they probably don’t sell to that many companies.

Thanks, momo! That’s a good idea, to ask the people at Goomtee. If I get up the nerve to bother them, I will post what they tell me here.

Lala said

I guess I might be wrong. If they both come from the same plantation then I would assume they would be same. Thanks for the correction Charlotte Zero and momo.

Charlotte-Yes, you could have same grades from the same flush from the same estate and they could be different. For instance, we purchased an extra “special” offering from an estate that costs us 160% of what the regular offering costs.

Thank you, Stacy! I was actually hoping that you might have some insight on this one. Do you mind if I ask how they might separate a “special” tea from the rest?

Was it picked at a more optimal time or from a special place or from specific plants? Was it separated based on some other factor when the leaves were graded and sorted? Is this a “trade secret” and you can’t tell me any more? ;-)

CharlotteZero-Happy to help. For the particular Darjeeling I’m talking about, the estate has several gardens. Each garden has a specific day right down to the time of day that it is most optimal for plucking. This special offering consists of the very best plucking time of that particular garden. There is huge difference in taste and that is why we purchased the special offering. We felt it was worth the extra money. Which reminds me, that we probably should have mentioned in the description of our tea that this was a special offering.

Thank you very much! That was exactly the sort of thing I was curious about. Very cool.

You’re welcome! I hope you find the tea you are looking for.

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Keep in mind that this rating doesn’t take into account quality of the actual leaf, only the condition. It looks at things like whether the tips are included, the flowers, and whether it’s cut up. (ex,ever see BOP? that means broken orange pekoe. FBOP means Fannings, ie even smaller bits)
What I mean by quality vs condition is that whether or not its been bug eaten, the colour of the leaf etc is not usually a factor unless it’s super obvious.

In terms of the naming, here are some descriptors:
Flowery: consists of large leaves, typically plucked in the second or third flush with an abundance of tips.
Golden Flowery: includes very young tips or buds (usually golden in colour) that were picked early in the season.
Tippy: includes an abundance of tips.

So… SFTGFOP is actually Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

Thanks for the insight, Indigobloom! I first asked this question because I ran out of a Goomtee that I purchased at Teance and was hoping to find the same tea from another vendor.

It also occurs to me that they may let certain teas oxidize more than others…I’d love to talk to someone who has had the experience of buying directly from a tea estate or read an account of it.

Same here, I’ve always wanted to pick the brain of someone who actually processed their own teas or worked at a farm even.
I’ve only taken the first of eight sommelier classes and it was fascinating, I can’t wait for the others! :p

That sounds so fun. Which classes are you taking?

Just the intro so far. Waiting on the funds to continue on in March!

All I can say is that I’m very jealous!

I’d send you the slides if I could!! but they are too large for me to send over hotmail :(

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Excelsior said

This “special offering,” is what Mariage Freres has been telling me all along. Based on the sheer volumes they purchase and their willingness to pay higher prices, they have acess to teas that are only offered to them and not offered to any other retailer. I’ve compared their FF Darjeeling teas with other retailers and oftentimes there is a difference of night and day. Same year, same flush, same estate, same grade, yet price differences of 2x, 3x, and sometimes even more if shipping charges and customs clearance costs are added (France to USA).

They even have an exclusive 2013 FF Darjeeling, Namring Poomong, that was picked in January. The jury is still out on this one since it is enroute, and I have not tasted it yet.

Happy Brewing!

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