Pu-erh tea leaves are graded into 11 grades, special, and 1-10 based on the level of the tenderness of the tea leaves judged by:
- the proportion of tip leaves with fury backs;
- the tightness of the tea leaves after processing (the big old leaves will remain flat and open, while the young ones will curl up into tight and dense string shape leaves 索条);
- the shine level of the tea leaves.
The quality of the teas produced, raw or ripened, cake, brick or Tuocha is however not linear to the grades of the tea leaves. For example, the fermentation skill (Ou-Dui 渥堆) is crucial to a ripened Pu-erh’s final quality and certain amount of mature leaves and even twigs will facilitate the post-fermentation and strengthening the depth of the aroma and flavour of the final products.