William of Orange, Husband of Queen Mary, Kensington Palace
Every tea seller tells a story about a customer who sent back their pot of Orange Pekoe tea because it did not taste of oranges. How can this be?
The answer to the disappointed drinker’s dilemma may be found in the fact that, while Orange Pekoe is one of the most common grades of tea manufactured in India or Sri Lanka, you won’t find dried oranges, orange peel, or orange flavoring in your Orange Pekoe Tea. Orange Pekoe (OP) is the name of the largest of the full leaf tea grades.
Pekoe, originally “peko”, was derived from the Chinese word pek-ho or baihao and refers to the tiny silvery hairs, resembling the cilia on a baby’s ear lobe, which sprout on the underside of unopened tea leaves. China’s costly silver needles white buds from Fujan are covered by peko.
The Dutch East India Company was the first European trader in Chinese teas and the term Orange Pekoe might have come about after those traders purchased pekoe tea at great cost at their port in Amoy. In order to advertise their expensive purchase to consumers back home, the Dutch East India Company presented a chest of their new tea to the Palace, the House of Orange, and named their rare find in honor or the royal family, voila Orange Pekoe Tea.
Antique Orange Pekoe Tea Tins
The word Pekoe eventually became the root of the British tea industry’s grading system, installed in the mid-1800s throughout India and Sri Lanka as the UK turned their back on Chinese tea.
At the gates of Kensington Palace, a reminder of the House Of Orange can be seen in the stature of King William III, formerly William of Orange, who became the best-known British king of Dutch descent when he married Queen Mary. He lived at Kensington until his death in 1702, eight years following the death of Mary.
Americans are familiar with the royal couple because of their namesake college in Williamsburg, Virginia, chartered by the King and Queen in 1693.
I think that Orange Pekoe tea should be the official tea served on that historic campus!