Discover fascinating facts about the bark of Portugal’s national tree

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2017


Every 9 years

  • Cork is the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), called sobreiro in Portuguese. The cork oak is the only tree whose bark can be harvested without killing it. Every time, it grows back smoother.
  • In Portugal it’s forbidden to cut a cork oak without permission; trees are marked and only experts are allowed to debark them. Stripping, cutting off the cork without touching the trunk, starts when the tree is 25-30 years old and happens every nine years. It’s only done in temperatures of over 35˚C. Read more about cork here.


Wait for wine-stoppers

  • Home to about 34% of all cork forests, Portugal produces half of all the world’s cork. There are over 500 cork factories in the country, which together employ more than 20,000 workers. In the Algarve, the cork industry mainly happens in the São Brás area, where huge quantities of freshly cut bark can be seen stacked next to factories or transported on trucks.
  • The best-known use of cork is as bottle-stoppers, particularly for wine bottles. Around 40 million bottle stoppers are made in Portugal every day. For this, only cork from the third and later harvests is used. Cork of the first two harvests is too rough and used for insulation or made into granulas.



  • Extremely lightweight, impermeable, elastic, compressible, buoyant. It also has almost unlimited durability, exceptional shock-absorbing capacity and is a poor conductor of sound, heat and electricity. And: cork is reusable, recyclable and 100% natural.
  • All in all, it’s pretty awesome stuff. Logical that there’s an official cork association in Portugal, promoting this product. Want to know more about this Associação Portuguesa da Cortiça (APCOR)? Check out their website.


Ties, necklaces and surfboards

  • Making a surfboard out of used wine stoppers? Octávio Lourenço did just that with his company Ferox in São Brás, back in 2014. And guess what’s the most important element in the main building of the Ecorkhotel in Évora (Alentejo region)? You’re right, cork!
  • Also popular: making ties, bracelets, shoes, bags, buoys, soap (out of the leftover bark pieces), postcards, necklaces and even umbrellas and clothes out of cork. Want to try creating cork jewellery for yourself in the Algarve? Follow a workshop.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2017

Posted in Typical Portugal.