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The Azores: Tea in the Lost City of Atlantis - Guest Post by Linda Villano, SerendipiTea

Monday, October 17th 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Part II (click here for Part I) - - We return now to the heavenly island of São Miguel, the largest of nine volcanic islands which form an archipelago called The Azores and the best kept tea secret right off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean.

In the latest issue of The Tea House Times the history of how tea arrived at this unlikely location was covered. In addition, a visit was made to Cha Gorreana, one of the last two remaining tea gardens on the island.  We’ll now take a stroll just over a mile down the road to the other tea garden and factory, aptly named Cha Porto Formosa.


View from Porto Formosa
Photo credit SerendipiTea


In 1554 Portuguese sailors “discovered” Taiwan and recorded it in shipping logs as Ilha Formosa, meaning beautiful island. It was then inhabited by aboriginal people not yet claimed by any country. Certain Oolong from Taiwan is referred to as Formosa Oolong, however this garden name refers to its Parish or District. Where Cha Gorreana is clearly a working operation, Porto Formoso is tourist-driven. And, it is charming! The neatly painted, stucco-walled entrance proudly displays a Large Black, Cast-iron Teapot surrounded by the stylized lettering “Porto Formoso”. 


Porto Formosa façade
Photo credit SerendipiTea


The garden and factory, in operation from 1920’s through 1980’s, had been abandoned and neglected. The current owners revived the property and the tea fields then re-opened in 1998. With a focus on tourism, the working factory manufactures black tea only and sells exclusively to the Azores Islands, Madeira and to mainland Portugal. Upon passing through the small front gate the view is one not to be forgotten. Sloping rows of carefully manicure tea bushes seem to flow into the vast ocean below.  Whereas Cha Gorreana’s tea bushes are self-propagating, Porto Formosa’s nursery of cuttings and clonals is situated along the garden path on the left while a sweet stone path to the right leads down to a deep blue-trimmed, white stucco building which is the factory and Tea Room.


Porto Formosa nursery
Photo credits SerendipiTea


Upon entering the first room, an informative museum, there is a comfortable couch facing a screen for viewing a short film on Azorean history and tea.  During the complimentary tour a knowledgeable guide will accompany you. On display are male & female tea-pickers’ garb complete with black gloves with cut-off fingers and wicker baskets (also made on the island) one for lunch, the other with enclosed tops for storing picked tea leaves. 


Tea Picking Garb
Photo credit SerendipiTea


Carefully placed objects such as a manual wooden tea rolling board, a large pan frying bowl & old tea chests are all clearly explained in wall placards. Upon exiting the museum/factory another path leads to the rustic and cozy stone-walled tea room.


Tea Room door
Photo credit SerendipiTea


The open kitchen in one corner displays different sized crocks, island-made wicker baskets, a large cast iron kettle and flats of young camellia sinensis plants. Sitting at one of the 12 or so rough-hewn wooden tables and chairs, sipping a freshly steeped cup of Azorean black tea, with a gentle breeze blowing through the open but curtained windows, a more relaxing moment would be difficult to recall.


Porto Formosa Tea Room Kitchen Area
Photo credit SerendipiTea


For more detailed information about the Azores and São Miguel tea be sure to read the 2016 November-December and 2017 January-February issues of The Tea House Times and learn more at


~ Linda Villano, SerendipiTea

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© All content and images are copyright of author.
LINDA VILLANO co-founded in 1995 with Tomislav Podreka. With a passion for all things Tea, she oversees all aspects of the business; including client consulting, concept and design, staff training, sourcing and product development (recipe creations). Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs, she considers her role as a purveyor of premium teas & tisanes a natural continuation of her family’s culinary tradition.   Linda is a published illustrator and writer. Her illustrations appear in Tomislav Podreka’s book, SerendipiTea: a guide to the varieties, origins and rituals of tea, and she writes articles about tea for trade publications.

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