Tips vs. Buds & Shoots
Although tea tips are also commonly known as "buds," they do not form flowers. They are sometimes also called "shoots," which is also misleading, because they do not include much (if any) stems.
Tips are really just young leaves!
Many types of tea tips have fine hairs growing from them. The tea plant grows these tiny hairs to protect the young, delicate tips from insects. As the leaves mature, they often lose their hairs.
Tea tips with these hairs are often called "downy buds" (with "downy" meaning "similar in texture to down feathers").
Quality & Tea Tips
Tea tips are generally considered to be better quality than the larger, older leaves of the tea plant. They often have a higher concentration of flavor, vitamins and minerals than the older leaves.
Early-harvest spring teas are often so prized because they are made primarily from tea tips. This is part of what gives them their distinctive flavor.
Cost & Tea Tips
Tea tips cost more due to their heightened harvest cost. Especially tippy teas have to be harvested exclusively by hand. Most tippy teas come from India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and China.
In these countries, the cost of hand plucking is affordable enough to be offset by the price that tippy tea can fetch.
Examples of Tippy Teas
There are many tippy teas produced around the world. Some of the more popular ones include:
- TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, the tippiest grade of tea in India and the main orthodox tea from Assam and Darjeeling)
- TGFOP1 (same as above, but a higher grade based on overall quality)
- FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, a very high grade of tippy tea from Assam and Darjeeling, often processed by hand and about 1/4 tips)
- STGFOP1 (Special Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, the highest grade of tea available from India, often with 1/4 tips or more)
- Golden Monkey (a tippy red tea from Fujian and Yunnan, China, made from only the tip and first full leaf in a 1:1 proportion)
- Dianhong / Golden Needle / Yunnan Gold (tippy red teas from Yunnan, China)
- Silver Needle / Bai Hao Yinzhen (a tippy white tea from Fujian, China, usually made entirely from the buds of the tea plant)
- Darjeeling White Tea (often made from tips only)
- White Peony / Bai Mu Dan (a mix of large leaves and buds from Fujian, China)
- Oriental Beauty / Bai Hao Oolong (a tippy oolong from China and Taiwan)
- Bilouchun (an early-spring harvest, tippy green tea from Jiangsu, China)
Certain types of pu-erh teas are especially tippy, too.
Also Known As:
silver tips, golden tips, tippy tea