They are as close to the American continent as they are from the European mainland: the Azores — a lonely outpost of Portugal in the mid-Atlantic. But it is not only the location of the islands that is special. There is never a frost here, and the climate stays mild and humid all year round. Broad parts of the island group have thus developed into a lush, evergreen paradise. Colorful blossoming hydrangea bushes grow in the fertile volcanic soil, as well as sugar cane and tobacco — and also: tea!
The beginnings of tea cultivation in the Azores
There are various stories about how tea first got to the Azores. One tells of a Portuguese commander, who is said to have brought the plants with him from Brazil; another names two Chinese men who visited the Atlantic islands in 1878. Whatever the truth, the import was a blessing for the islanders, as tea growing became an important source of income on the Azores for many decades. In its heyday there were a total of 62 plantations. The oldest still existing is Chá Gorreana, located in the north of São Miguel island. Tea has been grown here since 1883, and it is managed by the Mota family in the fifth generation. Many of the machines used for harvesting and processing the leaves are the same as those used in the early days, and many steps in the process are still performed by hand. Tourists can find out how for themselves, by visiting the plantation.
From plant to drink: a visit to the tea plantation
One of these guests was DW reporter Hendrik Welling. For the series "Europe to the Maxx" on DW's lifestyle and culture magazine "Euromaxx" he visited the oldest tea plantation in Europe. In the family business, he actively helped with the harvest and discovered how much work goes into every cup of tea. In the video you can learn everything about the individual steps of tea processing.
Tea cultivation — a competitive market
The harvest time is from April to September. After picking, the tea leaves are taken to the plant, where they are sorted by hand and then dried and fermented. Between 30 and 40 tons of black and green tea are produced here every year. In terms of price, tea from the Azores cannot compete with tea from India or Sri Lanka, but the owners of Chá Gorreana are not discouraged by this. They plan to continue exporting the tea from Europe's oldest plantation all over the world.
Address: Plantações de Chá Gorreana, 9625-304 Maia, São Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Getting there: Fly to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, then it's around 30 minutes by car to the tea plantation in the north of the island.
Hours: Mon-Fri 8a.m. – 6p.m., Sat & Sun 9a.m. – 6p.m.
The accompanying book
Europe at its most extreme: The series "Europe to the Maxx" on DW's lifestyle and culture magazine Euromaxx makes Europe's superlatives experienceable — from extraordinary architecture to spectacular landscapes to unique cultural phenomena. Accompanying the series, the book 111 Extreme Places in Europe That You Shouldn't Miss was published in cooperation with Emons Verlag. It is an alternative travel guide, both informative and entertaining, for avid travelers, fans of Europe and anyone who likes to show off with unusual pub quiz trivia. Full of guaranteed record breakers!