Orange pekoe is a grade of black tea brewed from the dried leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. Along with other varieties of Camellia sinensis teas, including green, oolong and white, orange pekoe and other black teas are widely consumed throughout the world. Scientific studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that the popular beverage also offers a number of health benefits.
Although green tea generally gets more attention for its health benefits, Czech researcher Martina Bancirova’s comparison of the antioxidant properties of 30 tea samples doesn’t support the bias toward green tea, at least in terms of antioxidant capacity.
Studies have shown that orange pekoe has the ability to reduce chances of a heart attack occurring with the consumption of three or more cups of the tea daily. A compound found in orange pekoe tea, rutin, has antioxidant properties which help counteract free radicals thus preventing them from damaging tissues of the body. This also helps combat premature ageing, another great benefit from consuming this tea. It also helps in venous circulation in the management of varicose veins. It is low in fluoride, thus preventing dental cavities. It also helps with weight loss by speeding up the metabolism.
The History Behind The Orange Pekoe Black Tea
The origin of the word “pekoe” is uncertain. One explanation is that “pekoe” is derived from the transliterated mispronunciation of the Amoy (Xiamen) dialect word for a Chinese tea known as white down/hair. This is how “pekoe” is listed by Rev. Robert Morrison (1782–1834) in his Chinese dictionary (1819) as one of the seven sorts of black tea “commonly known by Europeans”. This refers to the down-like white “hairs” on the leaf and also to the youngest leaf buds.
Another hypothesis is that the term derives from the Chinese báihuā “white flower”, and refers to the bud content of pekoe tea. Sir Thomas Lipton, the 19th-century British tea magnate is widely credited with popularizing, if not reinventing, the term for Western markets.
The “orange” in Orange Pekoe is sometimes mistaken to mean that the tea has been flavored with orange, orange oils, or is otherwise associated with oranges. However, the word “orange” is unrelated to the tea’s flavor. There are two explanations for the meaning of “orange” in Orange Pekoe, though neither is definitive:
The Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau. The Dutch East India Company performed a central role in bringing tea to Europe and may have marketed the tea as “orange” to suggest a royal warrant. The copper color of a high-quality, oxidized leaf before drying, or the final bright orange color of the dried pekoes in the finished tea. These usually consist of one leaf bud and two leaves that are covered in fine, downy hair. The orange color is produced when the tea is fully oxidized.
Why Is Orange Pekoe So Exclusive?
The tea industry uses the term Orange Pekoe to describe a basic, medium-grade black tea consisting of many whole tea leaves of a specific size;however, it is popular in some regions (such as North America) to use the term as a description of any generic black tea (though it is often described to the consumer as a specific variety of black tea). Within this system, the teas that receive the highest grades are obtained from new flushes. This includes the terminal leaf bud along with a few of the youngest leaves. Grading is based on the size of the individual leaves and flushes, which is determined by their ability to fall through the screens of special meshes ranging from 8–30 mesh. This also determines the wholeness, or level of breakage, of each leaf, which is also part of the grading system. Although these are not the only factors used to determine quality, the size and wholeness of the leaves will have the greatest influence on the taste, clarity, and brewing-time of the tea.
When used outside the context of black-tea grading, the term “pekoe” (or, occasionally, Orange pekoe) describes the unopened terminal leaf bud (tips) in tea flushes. As such, the phrases “a bud and a leaf” or “a bud and two leaves” are used to describe the “leafiness” of a flush; they are also used interchangeably with pekoe and a leaf or pekoe and two leaves.
Health Benefits Of Orange Pekoe Black Tea
Here is a list of benefits of orange pekoe black tea.
Although green tea generally gets more attention for its health benefits, Czech researcher Martina Bancirova’s comparison of the antioxidant properties of 30 tea samples doesn’t support the bias toward green tea, at least in terms of antioxidant capacity. In an article in the June 2010 issue of “Food Research International,” Bancirova reported on her analysis of these teas, which included several sub-grades of orange pekoe tea. Weighing the Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity, or TEAC, averages of 15 green — unfermented — teas against the TEAC averages of 15 black — fermented — teas, Bancirova found that they were identical.
Endothelial dysfunction, a systemic condition in which the endothelium, or the inner lining of blood vessels, functions abnormally, is widely implicated as a causative factor in coronary artery disease. A team of U.S. researchers conducted a study to evaluate the short- and long-term effects of black tea consumption on this cardiovascular condition. Researchers divided a study group of 66 patients with proven coronary artery disease into two groups, one of which received black tea and a control group that was given a like amount of water. Short-term effects were evaluated two hours after consumption of roughly 15 ounces of tea or water, while long-term effects were measured after four weeks of daily consumption of about 30 ounces of tea or water. Researchers found black tea consumption reversed endothelial dysfunction in the 50 study subjects who completed the study. Results were published in a 2001 issue of the American Heart Association’s publication, “Circulation.”
Synergism With Antibiotics
Based on earlier findings that indicated tea leaves had significant antimicrobial properties, a team of Indian researchers conducted in-vitro testing to see how black and green tea extracts worked in concert with antibiotic drugs against pathogens associated with intestinal infections. Black tea extracts include orange pekoe and other grades of fermented tea. In an article in the July 2005 issue of the “Indian Journal of Medical Research,” researchers reported that both green and black tea extracts exhibited synergistic effects when used with popular antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, gentamycin and methicillin. The tea-drug combinations were tested against E. coli, Shigella dysenteriae and multiple strains of Salmonella.
In one study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, black tea was shown to complement the effects of antibiotics when working against common intestinal infections. The same study reported that black tea is just as effective as green when it comes to combating microbial infections. When you sip orange pekoe tea, you enjoy much more than a flavorful cup of a popular brew.
Disease Fighting Potential
Thanks to this high antioxidant level, orange pekoe tea may be able to combat or prevent cancer. Studies of the polyphenols found in tea have shown that a particular compound called TF-2 can actually slow the growth of cancerous cells. Antioxidants also work to thwart damage to cellular DNA so that no mutations are replicated and new cells are healthy when they’re formed.
The same TF-2 that may fight cancer has also been shown to be beneficial when it comes to inflammation. COX-2 is one of the many pain pathways responsible for initiating inflammation in the body, and drinking orange pekoe tea may actually block COX-2 signaling. Because inflammation puts the immune system constantly on alert, it is suspected to be the root of many degenerative diseases. Tea may be a natural way to cool inflammation and keep the body healthier.
Boosts Heart Health
Many people suffer from a condition called endothelial dysfunction which may be an underlying cause of heart disease. In one study, regular consumption of black teas including orange pekoe varieties was shown to be able to reverse this condition, thus potentially lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. In addition, black tea contains polyphenol and flavonoid compounds that may reduce overall risk of death from heart disease.