Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's top food and drink producers taste success in Great Taste Awards 2016

By Lisa Smyth

Beers, brownies and brews are among some of Northern Ireland's top food products which have been given the thumbs up at the Great Taste Awards 2016.

Belfast-based Thompson's Family Teas won the maximum three stars for its hero brand, Punjana, while Past Tense Treats and Mourne Mountains Brewery - both based in Warrenpoint, Co Down - walked away with two star awards.

The Co Down brewery received the nod for its Red IPA Red Trail beer and Past Tense Treats was handed an award for its Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie.

The founder of the brewery, Connaire McGreevy - one of the winners at this year's Belfast Telegraph Business Awards - said winning the award is a massive statement about the quality of the beer.

"It was one of the first beers developed by our talented master brewer Tom Ray when we established the brewery," he said.

"He combines speciality caramalt and crystal malts with roasted barley in the grist and carefully creates a generous hop flavouring and aroma along with a long, dry finish.

"Mourne Mountains Brewery was only officially launched last September, and since then the momentum and support has been amazing. "Having a brewer like Tom on the team has been integral to our success, his brewing experience is unrivalled in the local brewing sector."

The award is the latest success for Mourne Mountains.

Earlier this year, their East Coast IPA won a silver medal at the Dublin Craft Beer Cup.

Connaire continued: "It's early days for us as and we have some very exciting plans in the pipeline for new concepts and flavours."

Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers.

As well as a badge of honour, the unmistakable black and gold Great Taste label is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product, which has been recommended following hours and hours of blind tasting by hundreds of judges.

The expert panel, which included chef James Golding and MasterChef judge and restaurant critic, Charles Campion, deemed Past Tense Treat's Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie an "attractive-looking, well-balanced, salty-sweet brownie with a wonderfully gooey centre and a chocolatey bouquet".

The firm's managing director, Jackie Reid, said: "We have put a great deal of effort into ensuring our handmade products are of the highest standard, and winning a prestigious Great Taste Award has been incredible.

"We are hopeful that this will increase our success as a newly established business, and that customers will be drawn to our products as a result of it."

Meanwhile, Ross Thompson - who works alongside cousin David Thompson to blend the teas created by Thompson's Family Teas - said they are delighted to receive the accolade.

A three-star award is the highest achievement a product can win and is normally reserved for exclusive and specialised products, rather than an affordable everyday product.

He said: "I feel that with this latest endorsement, we have come one giant step closer to our ultimate goal of blending the perfect everyday cuppa."

David said: "Our factory has achieved BRC Grade A accreditation and is equipped with some of the world's most advanced tea packaging and blending machinery.

"Indeed, our factory now produces tea for over a third of the country's tea drinkers, equating to more than one million tea bags every day in Northern Ireland alone."

The Great Taste Awards are commonly referred to as the Oscars of the food and drink world and are run annually by the Guild of Fine Foods in England.

Food and drink entries are blind tasted by up to 40 judges in six different locations across the UK, with less than 2% of all entries making it to the hallowed three-star status.

Belfast Telegraph