In the hot seat

Jamie Thompson, marketing executive at Punjana

Jamie & Camille Thompson

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
After having studied Management with Marketing at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, I joined Pernod Ricard as a brand ambassador for Jameson Whiskey as part of their International Graduate Programme. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and was fortunate enough to be placed in Amsterdam, London and Dublin, before eventually returning home to Belfast to join our family business where I am currently enjoying my role as marketing executive.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?
A typical day is filled with managing sponsorship requests, producing content for our social media channels, responding to customer enquiries, and working on some exciting new packaging design. I have always been drawn to marketing and business strategy, so it’s great to be able to explore this further.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?
Having led a few product tastings during my time spent with Jameson Whiskey, my palate was more accustomed to picking up the subtle notes of a bourbon barrel, so recalibrating to picking up the delicate undertones of freshly plucked tea has been one of the more enjoyable, if somewhat challenging, tasks. This, combined with keeping on top of current customer needs and spotting future trends, in what is a fast-paced industry, I find are the greatest challenges.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.’ This was first quoted to me by my grandpa on his 80th birthday and it acts as a gentle reminder to me as I’m frequently amazed at how time seems to pass by in the blink of an eye.

WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?
Tea tasting! Since life began for Thompson’s Tea in Northern Ireland in 1896, it has always been a member of the Thompson family who has taste-tested and approved each and every tea blend. Even today, we have a grand total of just two tea tasters, Ross and David Thompson, who together taste and select fresh samples of tea every week from some of the most prized tea gardens in the world. Nowadays, Camille and I can also be found in the tea tasting room, slowly but surely doing our best to pick up the art of tea tasting.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?
A very tough choice indeed! It seems that now, more than ever, Northern Ireland has a huge amount to offer with an exceptional collection of local food producers. All you have to do is take a look through the recent Great Taste Award results to see the excellent quality of food we are producing here. From Hannan’s Meat, Cavanagh Eggs and Abernethy Butter to Mash Direct, Corndale Farm and Burren Balsamics, it’s certainly something to make you proud. Of course, Michele Shirlow MBE and Paula McIntyre MBE do a great job promoting the local food and drink industry here as well. And a final tip for anyone looking for some inspiration in the kitchen using some of these fantastic local ingredients, would be to check out @MollieMakesItNI on Twitter…’Cake is for Life, not just for Birthdays’. If I had to choose? A bacon butty from Kennedy bacon on Irwin’s soda bread is very hard to beat.

TELL US AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT TEA…
The tea bush (also known as Camellia Sinensis) is an amazing bush! It is capable of such incredible growth that skilled tea pluckers are able to pick a new flush of flavoursome leaves every 10 days. However, in order to produce this exceptional rate of growth, it needs sun, warmth and a bountiful supply of rain.

DO YOU GET TO VISIT THE TEA GARDENS?
I’m delighted to say that I do! We feel that it is important to know the people and the faces behind the tea we are blending and bagging each day in Belfast. We find that it also helps to give us a feeling of real connection to the product we enjoy creating so much. Arriving at the tea gardens is like diving into a sea of pure, green leaf. It’s truly astonishing to see the uninterrupted acres of luscious tea leaves, growing rapidly in the heat and humidity of Assam.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE BUSINESS BOOK?
Another tough choice, but I would highly recommend reading Shoe Dog, the memoir from Nike founder and CEO, Phil Knight. It’s an incredible story that starts from the very beginnings of the brand and takes you on a journey through to its current day success. It was far from smooth sailing for Nike to get to where they are today, and as a result, it makes for a very inspirational read.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PODCAST?
Without a doubt, The Joe Rogan Experience. It’s far from a hidden gem, being one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world, but its popularity is justified. Guests range from comedians and actors to astrophysicists and clinical psychologists. Each episode offers something new, and despite being around three hours, it’s a pleasure to listen to.

 

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