It was a claim that made headlines around the world and caused a stir among both tea producers and connoisseurs.

When farmer Tam O’Braan revealed that his Scottish-grown tea had been named the best in the world - fending off brews from renowned regions in China and India - what followed was a media frenzy and massive sales boost which saw his blend sold in five-star venues across the UK.

Mr O’Braan boasted that his Wee Tea Plantation brew, grown in Perthshire, had been awarded gold at the prestigious Salon de Thé awards in Paris and proudly named himself “Mr Tea” as he announced the win.

However, four years on, those astonishing claims are believed to be under investigation by Scotland’s food watchdog amid fears the award does not actually exist.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are also understood to be looking into allegations that some of the firm’s “award-winning” Dalreoch Estate tea - priced at £35 for 15g - was not even grown in Scotland.

FSS would not comment on the claims due to “legal reasons”, however the Mail on Sunday reported that Mr O’Braan is at the centre of an ongoing probe.

A source told the newspaper: “There’s a question over whether it’s possible to have produced the amount of tea sold as Scottish from the plants grown in Scotland.

“FSS is investigating whether tea has been described as Scottish when it is not, and whether people have been told awards were won that don’t exist.”

Mr O’Braan took over his Perthshire farm in 2011, reportedly propagating 14,000 plants by November 2014 from an original three.

When he claimed to have won the award in 2015, he received orders for the smoked white tea from customers including Edinburgh’s five-star Balmoral hotel, the Dorchester hotel in London’s Mayfair and luxury store Fortnum & Mason.

At that time, the Wee Tea Plantation founder, named in Companies House records as Thomas O’Brien, said: “I suppose you could call me Mr Tea after winning such a major award.

“I’m proud to say our tea is the best in the world.”

However, France-based tea expert Barbara Dufrêne, who formerly ran the European Tea Committee, has since cast doubt on the businessman’s claims.

“Several people have asked me about this and apparently this does not exist,” she said.

“I haven’t been able to find any proof of this award and nobody has ever heard about it.. Apparently this is auto-proclaimed.”

Mr O’Braan also claimed to have received a silver award from the Tea Exchange in London, reportedly ‘the UK tea grading body’ - but this is also understood to be under investigation.

Jane Pettigrew, who has worked in the tea industry for more than 30 years and received the British Empire Medal for services to tea, said there was no UK tea grading authority.

She added: “Nobody here in this country has ever found anything about it.”

In September 2017, The Balmoral hotel announced that it was launching the world’s first “full Scottish tea menu”.

The announcement stated: “Having launched the very first Scottish tea with The Balmoral in 2014, The Wee Tea Plantation owner, Tam O’Braan, has spent the last three years working with other garden owners to provide the hotel with a tea menu made up of Scottish-grown tea.”

However, the hotel has recently removed the tea from its menu.

A hotel spokesman said: “The Balmoral aims to serve the highest quality of produce to our guests.

“We do not serve any tea from the Wee Tea Plantation.”

Mr O’Braan also helped the Dorchester to establish a rooftop tea garden and his Dalreoch tea featured on the hotel’s afternoon tea menu.

A hotel spokesman said the garden was “no longer there” and confirmed that they no longer serve Mr O’Braan’s tea.

Fortnum & Mason also no longer sell the tea.

Mr O’Braan also founded the Scottish Tea Growers’ Association, however the group no longer exists.

Tea Scotland, a group of independent growers which succeeded it, transformed its constitution and severed all ties with him.

Richard Ross, chairman of Tea Scotland, said: “We would be pleased to support investigations into anyone suspected of damaging the reputation of Scottish-grown tea.”

The Herald was unable to contact Mr O’Braan or anyone from the Wee Tea Plantation.

The Mail on Sunday were also unable to contact the farmer, including at the house in Amulree, Perthshire, where his tea was said to have been grown.

A woman at the property claimed he had rented an outbuilding from her, but had left months previously.

She said she believed Mr O’Braan had moved back to Ireland.

A FSS spokeswoman said: “For legal reasons, FSS cannot discuss any matter that could be subject to an investigation.”

In 2017, Mr O’Braan claimed that his plantation had been raided by thieves.

He said he believed they were selling the stolen plants to growers in England.