April 9, 2008

Wiki Wednesday: Orange Pekoe

Wiki Wednesday (the DrMomentum version) is all about my ignorance. It's a feature in which I admit ignorance on a subject, but enough curiosity that I lifted a finger to search it on Wikipedia. There's extraordinary motivation for you!

So, here's something I looked up on Wikipedia recently:

Orange Pekoe

Orange pekoe (also spelled pecco) is a term mainly used to describe a grade of tea found in the grading system used for sorting black teas (Orange pekoe grading).[1][2] The system is based solely upon the size of the processed and dried black tea leaves.

I didn't realize it was pronounced "peck-oh." Seeing it on tea boxes for all those years, I had assumed it was "peek-oh." Luckily, it never came up in conversation. Imagine my possible embarassment. Like the time I mispronounced "bergamot." But that is a story for another time.

I had also assumed that it was a variety of tea, not part of a bizarre grading system. The grades, as the quote above states, are based on the size of the tea leaves. So, you'd think that "small," "medium," and "large" might serve purposes. Nope.

From the Wiki article, there are different grades for whole leaf tea, broken leaf tea, "fannings" (which are smaller broken tea leaves) and dust. Altogether, this system comprises about 27 different grades. Whole leaf grades span from OP (Orange Pekoe) to FTGF OP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). All 27 grades have some variation on those bizarre names. There are three different grades of dust alone, which tells me this system is really for tea geeks.

By the way, if you're not buying loose leaf tea, you've probably been drinking tea mostly made from fannings and dust. Enjoy!

Speaking of tea geeks, check out tea geek jokes.

A joke among tea aficionados is that "FTGFOP" stands for "Far Too Good For Ordinary People".

Oh lord, that's a knee-slapper. If there's anything that makes me leery of enjoying tea more, it's this glimpse of what the tea-drinking community accepts as humor.

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Posted by James at April 9, 2008 9:16 AM
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Ah, come, now, James. Every specialty has its special[1] "humour". Ain't you never told some computer-geek "joke" that got a chuckle from the cognoscenti but would have made your mother shake her head and wonder what she'd done wrong?

You haven't lived until you've heard a couple of tea folks argue about whether you should brew Pi Lo Chun at 180 degrees, or 175.

[1] "Special", here, maybe in the sense of "special education" or "special Olympics".

Posted by: Barry Leiba at April 9, 2008 10:14 AM

Yes, but our geeky jokes are funny!

I distinctly remember, going back quite a while, making a number-base joke that was just hilarious, and everybody laughed except my geeky friend's non-geeky wife, who called us geeks. Except the joke's on her, because now she's studying to be a math teacher. I don't know if that's self-defense, or if she saw the error of her ways.


Posted by: Maggie at April 9, 2008 10:25 AM

To be completely honest, not only do I tell and appreciate geek jokes, I was preparing a post on it.

However, some geek jokes are better than others. And that one about FTGFOP is extremely dry. Perhaps it is meant to be ironic, in which case I think I'd appreciate it more.

Some of the best geek jokes are about making fun of other people's jokes.

Posted by: James at April 9, 2008 11:22 AM

I had assumed it was "peek-oh."

You were right, it is. See the Merriam-Webster's pronunciation below:

|pē- kō also |pe- kō
Function: noun
Etymology: Chinese (Xiamen) pek-ho
Date: 1712
: a tea made from young leaves slightly larger than those of orange pekoe

I also assumed orange pekoe was a type of tea--and that it would have an orange flavor. Thanks for the info!

Posted by: Patti M. at April 9, 2008 1:15 PM

I know for sure that it doesn't taste like oranges, but I did think it was a specific variety because sometimes it's listed on the box. Huh.

Posted by: Julie at April 9, 2008 1:30 PM

Interesting. Most other sources I found favored "peck-oh" and it was Alton Brown's pronunciation on "Good Eats" that led me to look it up in the first place.

Crazy foreign-language borrowed words!

Posted by: James at April 9, 2008 2:00 PM

I have an anecdote involving tea and a british colleague. This colleague used to like to rant on how you couldn't just order 'tea' in America and how he had to specify orange pekoe in order to get a 'proper' cup of tea. Well, one time we all decided to have a meeting at a local chinese bubble tea bar. He was happy. Until he ordered.

You see, bubble tea is a tasy Taiwanese concoction which can be a lot like a milkshake http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_Milk_Tea it's tasty stuff.

He ranted on about how apparently only British could make a 'proper' cup of tea.

It was at that point that I reminded him that Chinese invented tea, and they could do with it what they pleased. Leave it to the Europeans to take something that isn't theirs and then claim they are the only ones who know how to do it right.

Posted by: rui at April 18, 2008 4:57 PM

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