If you ever walked down the tea aisle at your local grocery store or enjoyed a cup of tea at a tearoom, you probably came across the name Orange Pekoe on a tin of tea or on the list of teas available at the tearoom. However, there is no orange in it and the color is not orange- so why the name?
First of all, orange pekoe is not an orange-flavored tea nor in any way associated with the orange fruit! 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 leaf bud plucked with two youngest leaves. (Any other leaves produce teas of lower quality.)
So…the orange pekoe term refers to a grade of black tea based on the size of leaf and its location on the tea plant.
Often misread as referring to the taste of the tea, the term “Orange Pekoe” has a rather intriguing history. The word “pekoe” is a corruption of the Chinese words for “white tip.” Actually the “orange” part is more fascinating. Believe it or not the Dutch East India Company, was probably responsible for this. The Dutch royal family was of the House of Orange. Now, without getting into a very lengthy BUT very interesting history and lineage of the House of Orange – I’m just going to give you an abbreviated account. First though just for a location reference, the name Orange takes its roots from the French Princedom of Orange, named after the town Orange in the South of France.
The House of Orange was a royal dynasty that derived its name from the medieval principality of Orange, in old Provence in southern France It was important in the history of the Netherlands and is that nation’s royal family. The dynasty was first established as a result of the marriage of Henry III of Nassau Breda from Germany and Claudia of Chalon- Orange from French Burgundy in 1515. From there the roots of the family tree become convoluted and we are really talking about the tea and not the history of the House of Orange.
Now the “orange “ part of the name…It is most likely that the Dutch East India Company had something to do with this description. The tea is named for the royal Dutch House of Orange, which was in power when the Dutch East India Company first began importing tea. The company wanted to imply that they had associations with the royal family, so they added “orange” to “pekoe.” The ploy made orange pekoe tea quite popular. So, tea fit for a King!
Next… Orange Pekoe Ceylon in my cup