The term ‘orange pekoe’ refers not to the flavour or colour of the tea, but to the grading of the tea leaves used.
I attempted to digest the Wikipedia article about this but it made my head hurt. If you want further information you could have a go at reading the article yourself, but the essential point would appear to be that ‘orange pekoe’ denotes a high quality large leaf tea.
It has been suggested that the ‘orange’ in the name might come from a connection with the Dutch House of Orange, who were partial to a spot of high quality tea. As for the word ‘pekoe’ there appears to be some confusion about this, but it may refer to a certain bit of the tea leaf bud.
To tea pedants this lack of certainty may appear unsatisfactory but, to my mind, orange pekoe’s enigmatic origins only add to its allure.
The Twinings Orange Pekoe I was sent contained the sort of tea I expect to find when tea shopping outside the UK: a box of individually wrapped sachets:
I assume that the difference in packaging for tea consumed within the UK and that destined for overseas markets is related to the amount of tea drunk in a certain country. Wrapping each teabag up individually perhaps makes sense if you only use one teabag very occasionally, but I should imagine that if tea was routinely packaged like this in the UK, there would be a national outcry.
I certainly found that when I went to make a pot of Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe, using four teabags, I felt frustrated by the amount of effort involved in unpackaging each paper wrapper and then having to deal with the associated strings and tags that came with each one. I ripped off the tags, but I would have been better advised to snip off the strings too because when I went to stir the teabags around in the teapot, the strings got all wrapped round the spoon and made me not a little irate.
To be fair to Twinings, they do state on their website that this orange pekoe is made for international markets, so perhaps they don’t sell much of it in the UK. The box certainly had travel aspirations, with information in more than a dozen languages.
The important thing about this tea was of course not the packaging or the name, but the taste of the stuff.
It seemed to me to be the sort of tea one might like to drink with a slice of cake (right at the moment I can’t think of any other sort of tea, but I suppose there may be such a thing), and so I made a Victoria sponge to scoff with it:
I had a bit of an accident when pouring the icing sugar out of the packet, and since I’d dropped a load of sugary snow on one bit of the cake I thought I’d better make it look even by smothering the rest of it too:
As I tend to expect with Ceylon, the tea was a light sort of brew, but it had a good strong colour (one might almost say orangey), and a smooth drinkable quality. The delightful assistants described the tea as ‘mellow’ and that word certainly seemed to me to fit the bill.
It was surprisingly flavourful, and we all agreed that it was the perfect partner for a sweet treat:
To the great delight of the assistants, a bit of cream was added to mark the occasion.
N.B. The amount of cream featured in this picture is shown for example only, and is not an accurate representation of quantities consumed: