When plans were revealed to open Scotland’s first tea plantation at a remote Perthshire farm, there were more than a few raised eyebrows.
Tam O’Braan, who launched the project with business partners Jamie Russell and Derek Walker, risked becoming a laughing stock and was soon lumbered with the nickname, Tetley Tam.
But now, three years on, and the business has grown to become the biggest of its kind in the UK and Tam is having the last laugh.
The Wee Tea Plantation, based at Dalreoch Farm, near Amulree, has been judged to be the finest grade on the official scale used by the Tea Exchange in Great Portland Street, London.
Experts ruled the tea leaves were worth around 2,300 per kg, compared to around 9-20 per kg for standard supermarket fare. The top-notch rating puts the tea on par with Chinese Silver Needles, the most sought-after leaves in the world.
It’s little wonder that the group’s first customer was Kensington Palace.
Now, the company is being courted by some of the world’s best-known retailers.
Mr O’Braan said: “When you’re going to do anything like this, it is always going to be a big risk.
“I know there were a few chortles from a lot of people and I was known for a long time as Tetley Tam.
“But, I believe if you are going to be the first, then you also have to be best, and we have always aimed to be the top of the market.
“If it had turned out to be a bit of an embarrassment, then that would have been a real shame.”
He said the leaves grown at the 140-acre former sheep farm were usually sold at auction.
“We now have interest from some prestigious retailers who are looking for us to supply exclusively to them. It’s a good position to be in.”
Mr O’Braan bought the farm in 2011 and transformed 14 acres of rough grazing land, putting in 2,000 Camellia Sinensis bushes.
He now has 14,000 plants, grown from the seeds or cuttings of those first 2,000.