Tag Archives: Azores

Portuguese Pastry Post-Doc: Gorreana Tea

You can’t have a proper pastry time in Lisbon without coffee or tea. So for the Portuguese Pastry post-doc, what could be more appropriate than a Portuguese tea to accompany some sweet snacks? Gorreana tea, from the Azores, is not only the Portuguese-grown tea, it is the only commercially-produced tea grown in Europe. The plantation was founded on the Ilha de São Miguel in 1883. According to their Portugese wikipedia page, tea was brought to the island by Macanese technicians in the 1870s, after it was decided that the mild Azorean climate would be perfect for  tea production. Currently, Gorreana produces Green Tea, Orange Pekoe tea, Black tea and broken leaf tea.

Gorreana Tea Plantation

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Portuguese Pastry Post-Doc: The Azores, Portugal’s Dairyland

It was surprising to see so many dairy products in Portugal with origins in the Azores (Os Açores), a small Portuguese archipelago located 900 miles from Lisbon in the Atlantic ocean. At first we thought that seemed terribly exotic – but it turns out that much of Portugal’s dairy comes from the Azores. Dairy production is the biggest industry in the Azores, and the archipelago is particularly verdant (see below). Azorean Immigrants also brought their dairy culture with them when they traveled to their new homes. One such area, Marin County in California, owes much of its dairy heritage to the Azores: “As late as the 1940s, there was a saying that a traveler from the Golden Gate to Petaluma would never be out of site of a Portuguese dairy.”

Dairy Pastures in São Miguel, Azores – by Tim Sackton

In our stay in Lisbon we have sampled Azorean milk, cheese and butter. Azorean butter is bright yellow – much brighter yellow than typical butter in the US – the color is due to lots of Beta Carotene from the fresh green grazing grass in the Azores. We just had some salted Azorean butter and even when spread on simple crackers you can tell the difference. The Azores are also known for the quality of their cheeses, and there are several cheeses with DOP protection, including São Jorge and Pico. So go figure, despite being smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are the Wisconsin of Portugal!

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Discovering Portuguese Cheese

We’ve been in Lisbon for two weeks now, and have noticed the cheese and meat shops we expected to be so plentiful, well, aren’t. So, we have been searching around to find some good cheeses, and managed to pick up two at a small grocery store close to home on Lisbon’s far north side. They have a small, but well-stocked, meat and cheese counter, along with some bubbly-personality butchers and cheesemongers, which always make a purchase better.

Our first splurge was Castelo Branco, a semi-hard goat milk’s cheese named for the town where it originated in west-central Portugal. Castelo Branco packs a strong, pungent punch dispersed in a crumbly texture. It’s far too strong to eat on its own, but does make a great complementary flavor with something softer, like a simple salad or a pasta. We found it worked particularly well with a simple pesto pasta, which we have made a few times since we’ve been here. (M also decided to throw in some chouriço, but that is a different story).

Opening the refrigerator door every day and catching the wafting smells of the castelo branco made us opt for a slightly more mild second cheese. We opted for Flamengo, a semisoft cow’s milk cheese that is a staple on Portuguese sandwiches. It’s inoffensive, nutty, tasty, and melts very well – especially on grilled cheese sandwiches, we discovered. Flamengo usually comes in a red wax package, wrapped in red plastic or foil. Our brand was Terra Nostra (pictured right).

Over at CataVino, Andrea Smith has a great user’s guide to Portuguese cheeses that did a great job enlightening us to some of the finer points. Most interesting for us, Flamengo – Portuguese for “Flemish” – is actually a copy of Dutch edam (we knew it tasted familiar!).

And for those of you link-obsessed readers who clicked on all the links from this post, you will have noticed that our brand of flamengo is noted as “Natural dos Açores.” Does this mean we have officially eaten Azorean food? We think so. So with apologies to the hard work of Anthony Bourdain and his crew, up goes the flag!

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