We were quite buffeled when we learned that on Madeira not only sugar cane is still grown but also processed in a small factory. So we had to see that.
First of all we looked for a sugar cane field. How does it look like? Long poles. Right. But. We were surprised to see that they are kind of purple. But nice. They feel hard and the leaves have sharp edges.
Shortly before harvesting the bushy leaves are taken off. A hard work. Not only because it is done by hand without any tool but the fields are nearly all at a steep slope.
Without the leaves the canes stay some time on the field so that they can develop more sweetness. After that they are harvested and carried by lorry to the sugar cane factory. All the sugar cane is processed on the island. Nothing is being exported.
The sugar canes are bundled on the lorry and these bundles are unloaded by a crance. They are laid down in front of the press. There the bundles are cut through and the canes are several times milled and pressed. The juice is collected in silos.
After that the juice is cooked to molasses. From the molasses the schnaps or rum is distilled. The sugar cane factory in Calheta is also a museum but even a fully functioning factory. Here people are really at work and you can watch.
At the tasting room you can try the different products and also buy them. A small bistro can also be found. There you can get Bolo de Mel – a ginger bread – or you can drink the famous Poncha. Once a year a huge ginger bread is baked with around 40 kg weight and stays there for the next year to show that it will stay fresh because of the sugar even for 12 months. ln the end you can taste ist and there will be a new one for the next year. But you can get smaller pieces of the yummy pastry as well.
Entrance is free. But there will only be workers around harvesting time because sugar cane has to be processed freshly. It will dry out otherwise.