Salsero wrote:Also, since FOP is a term from South Asia, it has no meaning at all in China, where it's just a fanciful designation suggesting that the tea includes some of the desirable growth tips, that's the "flowery." In short, it tells you no more about the tea than a vague "best quality" tells you.
Ah, yes. Ok, so Chinese tea doesn't follow the rules, so to speak. Does that mean it's mostly trial and error to choose a Chinese blend?
Actually, FOP doesn't really mean much as a 'grading' designation anywhere; it's just a 'marketing' ploy. Tea is kind of a 'buyer beware' kind of thing, regardless. It comes down to experience, both on a personal level and as relates to a given supplier.
It's my opinion (for what it's worth!!) that the Chinese are more 'real' about their tea. The Japanese take 'tea fetish' to an extreme; you need look no further than their elaborate tea ceremony to see what I mean. The Chinese, while very serious about tea, have a longer history with it and treat it as more of an 'everyday' thing. All the Chinese GungFu tea ceremonies I've attended (just social gatherings, really) are informal affairs without the elaborate ceremonial etiquette one finds in Japan. The Chinese use tea to wash and pre-heat the cups and utensils!! Perish the though in Japan (I think it's a capital offense!).
To get back on topic, I think you have to let experience be your guide. Find something you like (trial and error, really) and stick with it, trying other teas from that supplier and branching out from there. You can't get TOO far off track, particularly if you stay away from tea bags. Don't be too influenced by 'grading' claims. Even knowing what FOP means doesn't guarantee that the tea you receive will fit that definition.