Thompson family celebrate ‘birthtea’

Ross & David Thompson in the Punjana Warehouse

The family behind Northern Ireland’s best-selling tea, Punjana, is celebrating its 120th ‘birthtea’ of importing and blending some of the worlds’ finest teas into Belfast.

The third generation of the Thompson family, Ross and David, run their state-of-the-art Punjana tea blending and packing operation here in Belfast – the largest remaining tea blender in Northern Ireland.

The factory now produces tea for over a third of the country’s tea consumption, equating to more than 50,000 cups of Punjana tea every hour. Joint managing directors Ross and David personally taste every blend to ensure the quality of their beloved brand meets the standard befitting Northern Ireland’s favourite cuppa.

Their approach has been endorsed by their considerable success in the prestigious Great Taste Awards, where, over the last ten years, the Punjana brand alone has won more Gold Awards than any other blended tea bag in these islands.

The Thompson family has come a long way since 1896, when tea was delivered in tea chests to grocers shops using public transport – with earliest packs of Punjana loose tea sold for just two shillings and sixpence.  The Thompsons, who created the Punjana brand name, inspired by an inscription carved on the Gillespie statue in Comber Square, launched with a TV advertisement which was to become one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic jingles – ‘Pick Punjana Tea’ was released coinciding with UTV’s first night of transmission in 1959.

As part of their anniversary the family ventured back and explored the roots of their tea heritage with a dramatic journey from Kenya to Belfast, shown through an insightful video across their social media channels, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the origins of the nations favourite brew.

The Punjana original amber packaging

The Punjana original amber packaging

Ross Thompson said: “It takes a certain amount of courage to choose what is best over what is most profitable, so we stay focused on sourcing only the best possible tea leaves and can’t be persuaded by those which can be bought a little more cheaply from lesser gardens.

“Top quality Assam gardens have always held a strong fascination to generations of Thompson family tea tasters and it has undoubtedly helped to define the unique character and flavour of our hero brand, Punjana.”

David Thompson, added:  “The recent development of our range under the ‘Thompson’s Family Teas’ banner, has allowed us to launch new lines such as Thompson’s Signature Blend and Thompson’s Irish Breakfast, both of which have enjoyed significant success in the local market. Furthermore, each of these distinctive blends were awarded 2 Gold Stars with their first entry into the prestigious Great Taste Awards, run annually by the Guild of Fine Foods.

“Our exciting new range of Speciality Loose Leaf Teas has received significant recognition, winning dozens of Great Taste Awards – gracing afternoon tea tables in exquisite locations throughout Northern Ireland, such as The Titanic Ballroom, National Trust properties and Hastings Hotels.”

The Punjana brand, meanwhile, became the official hot beverage to the Irish Open Golf Tournament, staged at the magnificent Royal County Down golf links and, in Belfast’s Ulster Hall has helped revive an age-old tradition with their ever popular Punjana Tea Dances.

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