The Past and Future of the First European Tea Plantation – São Miguel
Good news for Chinese readers: related article has been published in Wenzhuo‘s column Tea Perspectives of April 2022 <Tea Times 茶博览> tea magazine in Chinese, 观茶者专栏-“欧洲第一个茶园的过去和未来”.
As a decorative plant, tea was introduced to São Miguel island by Jacinto Leite, a native of the Azores in Portugal in 1820. It is the administrative capital of the Azores in the central part of the North Atlantic. Among the tea tree varieties brought to the island, only small leaf tea trees are well adapted to the climate and soil of the island. With the decline of the important pillar orange orchard agricultural industry on the island caused by diseases and insect pests from 1840 to 1875, tobacco, sugar beet, pineapple and tea were included in the experiment as alternative economic industries. In 1878 and 1891, two groups of Chinese tea industry experts were invited to the island to guide tea planting and tea processing, and the tea industry was successfully developed. At the beginning of the 20th century, the island had nearly 50 tea gardens and 10 independent factories exporting tea, which played an important role in the island’s economy. An important part of the island’s economy has been established around the planting, processing and export of tea. At that time, São Miguel island also became the only tea producing area in Europe. However, since the 1960s, the impact of the development of the international tea industry chain on the local tea industry, the shortage of local agricultural labor force, and the local policies to increase milk production have accelerated the decline of the whole tea industry on the island. At present, only two tea gardens with a total area of 25 hectares are still in operation, each with tea factories, mainly producing green tea and black tea. Where will the tea industry of São Miguel Island, which has developed for almost three centuries, and the tea culture derived from it go in the future?