After tea is processed, it’s sifted by machine or by hand to determine its size: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings (very small broken leaves), or “dust” (what’s left after everything else has been sorted).
Tea is also graded according to its appearance. Each country has its own grading system, but in general the leaves with the most “tip” – the very top of the plant – receive the highest rating. Black teas are graded with a complicated acronym system based on the term “Orange Pekoe”. The grading refers only to appearance and not to flavor.
Green teas are graded by a simpler system. The highest grade goes to teas consisting of a bud and one leaf, followed by those with a bud and two leaves, a bud and three leaves, and so on.