Anyone form my native Northern Ireland will know the jingle. “Pick Punjana Tea”. Why? Because it was part of our growing up and heritage. But It’s more than that as I discovered. Many at home would condemn the rain, but as I have learnt recently its one of the main ingredients that makes ‘Our Food So Good’ as Food NI use in their marketing campaigns. You see rain makes the grass grow, that makes the beef so good, the flour so good and that leads to breads and everything else we produce on the farms in Northern Ireland unique and world class. Other brands of drinks need to create an ‘occasion’ for consumption in their marketing like “eleven thirty” , but when nature produces a daily stop in Northern Ireland with the rain, Punjana had a natural marketing campaign. That’s why we all know to “Pick Punjana Tea”.
Quality does not just come with awards, although the Thompson family who own Punjana
certainly have these, quality comes through dedication, hard work, travel and experiences. It also comes with history and being a family business, that is what the Thompson duo do so well. Ross and David. They don’t look like the Thompson Twins, but then, thats a bit 80’s for me when I first was exposed as a child to their family tea, they are cousins. 1980’s that is, Punjana actually started in the 1890’s. What they do share is an inner excitement about tea. It’s not passion, it’s natural evangelism. Just mention the concept of a leaf and they know it, seed, bud and generation. A latin name always impresses me, after all as my father taught me, breeding is important.
It’s about blending, it’s about getting the right bud (or 2 leafs and a bud) as I was told, with no stalk, picked at the right time and in the right size, but before that the leaves have to wither. Granted, food and drink production has it’s processes, but you have to understand where I’m actually standing and what’s going on around me to understand. I’m in the tea tasting room of Punjana. I’m standing looking at a wall full of Punjana memorabilia going back to 1896 when the company started. Ross is telling me to smell this bag, David is pouring another out onto a sheet of white paper and explaining the leaf size and what botanicals have been added, an array of naturally colourful confetti in tea. I try to catch my breath and I look behind me only to see another sight I love. The famed yellow cranes of Harland and Wolfe, the ship yard where HMS Titanic was built. It’s always the visual to me that I’m home.
From what I experienced, the knowledge that was bestowed upon me, indeed the Thompson family has been buying and blending the world’s finest teas for over 100 years. Ross and David are the third generation of Thompson to be in-charge of the business, a family legacy and from day one of the business, it’s always been a Thompson that has tasted and approved teas under their brand. How many companies can claim this? So when it rains in Northern Ireland, there is confidence in your cuppa. Perhaps they have won many awards, even quenched the thirst of those that built the Titanic or indeed the workers in the old Sirocco factory in Belfast that gave the world tea rolling and drying equipment that Ross tells me some tea farms in Kenya still use. You see, a lot of what we take for granted in this life started in Belfast, a people who gave the world more than we credit, a small part of the world that certainly punches above its weight.
Just like the Thompson Twins, a cup of Punjana says one thing. “Hold me now
”. And I still do.