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What is Orange Pekoe ?

Orange Pekoe is a classification of black tea based upon the origin of the leaf. To be classified as pekoe, the tea must be composed purely of the new flushes - a flush being the flower bud plucked with two youngest leaves. (Any other leaves produce teas of lower quality.)

A common misconception is that Orange Pekoe is a type of tea with an orange flavor, or that is otherwise somehow associated with the orange fruit. In fact, however, Orange Pekoe has nothing at all to do with the tea's flavour.

Tea was first imported to Europe by the Dutch East India Company in 1610 (green tea from Japan). Soon afterwards the Company also imported Chinese teas and promoted it so successfully that evidence of its enterprise survives still in the trade term Orange Pekoe.

Pekoe was a corruption of Bai Hao (or Pak-Ho), the Chinese words for white tip, in reference to the unfurled leaf bud covered with white down, an infallible sign of the leaf's infancy and thus of the superior delicacy of the tea. The first teas of this quality brought to Holland must have been presented to the royal family, the House of Orange, and by a stroke of marketing genius, tea of the Bai Hao type was promoted to the Dutch public as Orange Pekoe to suggest a royal warrant.


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