Food producers have seen off competition from tens of thousands across the country to win coveted Great Taste awards.

An elite few were awarded prestigious three-star gold awards in the world’s largest and most trusted blind-taste test.

One of the most remarkable successes was Hove-based Balcony Tea, a husband and wife team who use independent Albanian growers for their Mediterranean tea blends.

Svetlana and Miraman Nela only entered for feedback – but were amazed to win three awards including a three-star for their peppermint, an infusion of mint, rosemary, aniseed, chamomile and liquorice.

Former nurse Svetlana developed the idea after needing a revitalising brew after stressful A&E shifts.

She said: “It’s amazing. We’re very, very new and never expected to win.

“Our teas are about bringing the best of the Mediterranean.

“One blender said our thyme chai was very brave and had never come across it in 20 years.”

Another success was Stratta, which has previously won eight awards and picked up three stars for its sweet black mulberry vinegar.

Husband and wife John and Mary Stratton have produced the product for ten years using the mulberry tree in their Eastbourne garden.

John said: “Because the fruit comes from our tree at home it’s always very personal for us.

“We’re always looking to make them better and enhance the flavour.

“The awards are a sign of quality and really help with sales.”

Meanwhile artisan ice-cream maker Gelato Gusto, in Brighton’s North Laine, won three gold stars for its black truffle and honey flavour.

The celebrated shop created the unusual ice-cream blend using honey which comes from its own beehives.

Gusto also picked up two stars for its lychee and rose sorbetto and one star for its pear and parmesan sorbetto.

Director Jon Adams said: “We are delighted to receive such a highly sought after and well-respected seal of approval.

“It is an honour to have our hard work so well received and recognised.

“The Great Taste Awards are the food industry equivalent to the BAFTAs.”

The Great Taste awards 2014 received more than 10,000 entries.

Products are judged by more than 400 industry professionals and allow the highest quality to stand out in a busy marketplace.

Just 153 received three gold stars this year.

Other winners included Ouse Valley, based in Uckfield, which won two-stars for its spiced aubergine pickle and one apiece for its Brighton Belle plum jam and traditional piccalilli.

Julian Warrender, founder and chief pot-stirrer, said: “The whole team at Ouse Valley rejoice and celebrate in our achievement.

“This will undoubtedly boost sales and reinforce our reputation in the market place as a food company that deliver only the very best.”

Another triple-winner was Horsham Gingerbread, which was recognised for its gingerbread thins, sweet biscuits and puddle thins.

Owner Lesley Ward said: “I’m absolutely delighted with our triple win.

“Our three new biscuits all contain locally grown linseed meal from the Linseed Farm at Barns Green.

“The judges all enjoyed the rich flavour of each biscuit.”

World Coffees, a family run business based in Lindfield, is celebrating its sixth win with Blend No 99.

Managing director Jackie McGahan said: “This is a fantastic acknowledgement of our roasting and blending skills, and confirms what our many satisfied customers already know – that our coffee is among the very best in a highly competitive industry.”

Meanwhile Bonieri, based in Arundel, picked up awards for its triple-layered cremini praline and 40% hazelnut gianduja spread.

Founder Amber Rust set up the Italian chocolate company after missing the range of sweet treats she knew when living in Turin.

It launched in October 2013 and within six months was on the shelves of Harrods.

Shoreham-based success story Higgidy also picked up two stars for its feta and spinach pie for EAT.

Managing director Mark Campbell said: “We’ve been working with EAT for 10 years – they sold the first-ever Higgidy pie – and we’re really pleased to still be developing great products with them.”

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