There is indeed a tea plantation in Europe. And that is on the Azores island Sao Miguel.
The hedge like tea bushes grow in rows but also in wave like patterns on the hills in the village Riviera Grande. 7 years the plants have to grow before you can start harvesting. Then they are harvested every 2 or 3 weeks from April until October. After that the plants may rest and are even allowed to bloom. But this will happen in December.
Exceptionally we were allowed to drive into the plantation with a tractor and watch the harvesting.
Harvesting is not done any more by tender women’s hands but with a kind of a hedge trimmer. A handful of men carry the heavy machine some centimeters above the bushes and thereby cut the upper leaves of the tea plant. Thus only the fresh green leaves are harvestet. The first three to be exact: Orange Pekoe, Pekoe and Broken Pekoe.
The leaves are collected in a huge bag which is emptied on large canvases. This is quite a lot.
The harvest is brought to the near factory and processed. Green tea and black tea. The process is similar only for the green tea there is an additional step in the production.
Each part of the production can be seen when visiting the factory. Everywhere machines turn and pound and steam. And it smells like tea. Most of the production takes place inside of the machines which are age-old but still function. Every now and then you can get a glimpse of tea falling onto a conveyer belt or into a sack.
The leaves are dried and twisted. After that they are sorted by size and quality. Later on the stems are sorted out by hand. Of course you can taste the tea right away. We liked it very much. A fine black tea.
There is also a small museum and a small shop where you can buy the tea of course but also some other things. There is even a tiny coffee place where you can again drink a cup of tea. And you can get house made ice cream with special flavors like passion fruit or green tea.
In another room a movie about tea can be watched.
Two things are notably: Entrance to the tea factory is free. And you can walk through the plantation and even hike. There are specially marked hiking trails. And that all in Europe.