Once upon a time… the dream of a tea plantation in Portugal
What happens when two great tea lovers meet? Will their dreams be crazy and bold, or realistic? As we had previous experience in producing wine, and were convinced that the world of tea is equally as complex and interesting, we began to dream of producing tea ourselves. We already knew that the tea plant is a species of Camellia. Since we were living close to the part of the northern Portuguese coast known as the “land of Camellias,” we began to turn our dream into a reality.
Sibilia Lind report for Jornal Público:
Upon further investigation, we found historical records about a small tea plantation from the middle of the nineteenth century near Ponte de Lima. Unfortunately, tea was never produced there because the owner returned to Brazil. Tea production is very demanding; the plants need to grow for at least five years before the first harvest, and the processing of the leaves involves several steps. This is probably the main reason why nobody has tried to grow and produce tea in continental Portugal.
Since we like challenges, we planted our first two hundred tea plants (Camellia sinensis) in the garden of our house in Porto in 2012. These first plants developed so well that we quickly understood how suitable the climate was for them. This gave us the confidence to continue. So, in 2014, we decided to move our plants to their final home in Fornelo, near Vila do Conde.
Over the course of four years, we managed to plant almost one hectare. We cleared the land of an old, abandoned vineyard by hand, thereby avoiding the impact of heavy machinary. We care for our twelve thousand tea plants following the principles of organic agriculture with a biodynamic spirit. In this way, we try to create a sustainable cycle on the farm, in which everything we use on the earth is provided by the surrounding area.
Our aim is to produce green tea of the highest quality. Due to the complexity of tea production, we sought out green tea producers in Japan.
In 2012, our main tea producers from southern Japan, the Morimotos, visited us for the first time. Not only did they fall in love with Portugal, but they also embraced our project. Haruyo-san and Shigeru-san have over forty years of experience, and they continue to help us with their expertise in organic tea cultivation and production. The Morimotos will continue to visit us with some frequency to advise us on the work of the plantation.
After two years of small, experimental production, in 2019 we celebrated our first harvest of the sufficiently mature tea plants. It was a very special moment for everyone involved. Every day we stepped up to the challenge of transforming ever larger quantities of fresh leaves into green tea—a magical and complex process. Our tea leaf harvest is entirely manual, and furthermore, so is the majority of the transformation process.
Our mission is not only to produce our own tea, but also to share our passion for and knowledge of the complex world of tea. Since 2012 we have distributed the organic teas of the Morimoto family and of other small family producers in Japan. Additionally, we have developed a selection of high-quality global teas and organic Portuguese infusions. To the restaurants that serve our teas we offer personalized advice in the formulation of their tea menus. We conduct tea tastings and workshops on our plantation and in various other locations. In this way, we attempt to bring the East closer to the West, advancing the increasing interest of Europeans in the fascinating world of tea.