BY SUSANA LOURENÇO . PORTUGAL . EUROPE
The oldest and only remaining working tea plantation in Europe rests in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in a small evergreen island called São Miguel, one of the nine volcanic pieces of land that form the Portuguese Archipelago of the Azores.
It is a somewhat semi-misplaced landscape, where orderly rows of Camellia Sinensis shrubs grow among a maritime sub-tropical climate, running through gentle rolling hills – sometimes suddenly cut open by the tortuous blade of a tarmacked road – and abruptly diving into the sea.
Not spreading that far though from the only two factories that still produce the green and black tea varieties in the island – Gorreana and Porto Formoso -, the plantations have become a symbol of a successful introduction of a foreign cultivation method, which occurred by the end of the 19th century, as two Chinese experts were sourced in the far distant territory of Macau to bring with them the teachings about this new plant that would stand before the orange crisis that at the time afflicted the island and everyone living in it.
Today, the Azorean tea is recognized as a world-class organic product and is sold as Green Tea, Orange Pekoe, Black Pekoe or Broken Leaf. Its bold flavours and soothing scents are part of my everyday life, specially among those dread rainy days, when I snug myself under a blanket and hold a cup of hot Gorreana tea in my hand and a good book on the other.