Something the Thompsons do every day. Only the top-quality tea gardens submit their samples to the Thompsons’ tea tasting room for scrutiny. A small sample of each tea is precisely weighed, brewed in special tasting pots for exactly 3 minutes, then slurped and tasted by our fussy tea tasters, Ross & David Thompson.
Each brew is examined for flavour, character, strength and colour, making sure that the teas are free from any taint and that the withering, fermenting and drying stages have maximised the leaf's taste potential.
This is a first crucial step in ensuring that we produce the very best cup of tea, one that is brightly coloured and full of taste and flavour.
To this day, every blend we ever produce is first tasted and then approved by a member of the Thompson family. It is this knowledge and experience that enables us to deliver a blend that is just that bit better.
For generations, we have been working closely with some of the finest tea brokers in the world, with the ambition of blending the best available teas so that you can brew the best possible cuppa.
These specialist tea brokers act on behalf of the tea garden owners and negotiate with tea brands from all over the world.
Tea can also be purchased through auction, and one of the largest tea auctions in the world takes place in Mombasa, Kenya where incredibly over 10 million kilos go under the hammer each and every week
For our Indian teas, we look to the Assam region in North India, renowned for its top-quality tea estates. Sourcing teas from the best regions in the world, is only the first step; the next step is ensuring that within these regions we focus only on the tea gardens that offer the very best quality of leaf.
Interestingly in India, this region produces its best growth and tastiest teas in the summer months of June, July & August. Therefore, and rather unusually, we purchase our full year’s supply of tea during these three peak quality months to ensure that the leaves that go into our award-winning blends remain just that, award-winning! If we can be immodest for just a moment, we have to admit, there are very few tea brands that could say that, but we really are married to quality! For good measure, we even take it a step further and vacuum pack a significant proportion of these leaves which ensures that the tea is as fresh as the day it was picked in the garden.
As you might have guessed, these leaves of course command a price premium, however, quality is what we believe has brought us through 4 generations of tea blending and has allowed us to become Northern Irelands favourite cup of tea.
The very first shipment of tea arrived in the United Kingdom in 1655, after an arduous and treacherous 15-month sailing trip, and it became the beverage of choice for the royals, courtiers and the extremely wealthy. However, today, tea is not only the beverage we consume most in the UK after tap water, but also the cheapest!
Thankfully shipping has also greatly improved over the last few hundred years and our teas take just 4-8 weeks to travel from Mombasa and Calcutta by ship. The tea itself is held in foil-lined sealed paper sacks which ensures that the tea remains fresh and completely untouched until the seal is broken when the container arrives at our factory in Northern Ireland.
After tasting, slurping,and selecting some the finest teas that India and Kenya have to offer, it is the sole duty of Ross and David Thompson as our tea blenders to select complementary teas from our recent arrivals that will combine beautifully together to deliver the award-winning taste and flavour you have come to expect.
Bringing together teas from around the world and blending them together, whilst balancing their respective colours and flavour profiles is somewhat of an art. Each region, and indeed each garden within these regions, will produce a different colour and flavour.
The Thompsons blend teas from Assam in India, and Kenya in East Africa, two of the world’s best tea producing regions. Assam teas offer malty, rich, full bodied flavours, which are balanced with the bright, fresh and brisk tastes of Kenyan teas, to create the taste synonymous with Thompson’s Tea.
Teas from the same region can differ and change depending on the seasons and climatic conditions. Therefore, it is important that we continually assess the leaves from the gardens and alter the blend, when necessary, in order to maintain a consistent, award-winning taste. We know that for our customers it is important that the Thompson’s Tea they enjoy on a daily basis tastes the same every single cup, which is why getting the blending right is such an important part of the process.
As soon as Ross and David have agreed on a blend of Assam and Kenyan teas that best reflects our Thompson’s taste and flavour, it’s time for our team in the factory to get to work. After studying the list of teas to be used in the particular blend, it’s up to our warehouse staff to select these foil-lined sacks of tea, and marry them all together to evenly combine these various teas.
From here, the tea takes its next step on its journey to and arrives with our fantastic factory team and our state-of-the-art packing machines. It is the job of these amazing machines to perfectly measure out (to a tenth of a gram) the right amount of tea, before being sealed inside one of our tea bags. We took a rather brave decision when it came to our machinery, and decided that if we were determined to make the best tea, we should use the best machinery. As such, these incredible machines are in fact the fastest in the world and can process over 2,000 tea bags per minute. That’s over 10 million tea bags per week produced here in Belfast! It is fascinating to watch, and perhaps a little scary when we realise we have to make sure that 2,000 people are drinking our tea every single minute!
Now that our tea has been blended, bagged and boxed, it makes its way to a supermarket shelf near you, for you, friends and family to enjoy.
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