Artisanal almond production continues in the Azores despite lower demand

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The artisanal production of Easter almonds still continues in the Azores, made in copper pots and with beet sugar, although demand is lower than in the 80s or 90s.

In the parish of Fajã de Cima, in the municipality of Ponta Delgada, the Pérola da Ilha factory “doesn’t give up almond production specifically at this time of year”, as production director Francisco Paquete told Lusa.

Apart from Easter, the factory also produces occasional products for export to the emigrant communities living in the United States, as well as for sale to other islands in the Azores.

Originating in the Middle East and brought to Portugal by French confectioners, sweet almonds were previously produced in convents.

Francisco Paquete monitors the production of the almond every day, which takes 10 hours to make, and believes that the secret to the quality of the Pérola da Ilha product “lies in its almost artisanal production”.

“This is a time when we have to dedicate ourselves to this product, and there are various types of almond, such as the smooth colored almond, the French type, the popular almond – which is much appreciated by the people of São Miguel – and the dessert almond, as well as the confection, which is not an almond but also requires the use of copper pans,” says the businessman.

Francisco Paquete says that the tradition of almonds is still part of the Azoreans’ Easter habits, but “it was once more popular”, and that “in the 80s and 90s, production and demand were much higher”.

“With the arrival of almonds and chocolate eggs, sales fell by about half,” he said, adding that in the 1980s, 30,000 kilos of almonds were produced, while today reaching 15,000 is a good target.

According to the businessman, the kernel from Pérola da Ilha “differs from the one that comes from the mainland and other countries because it is more tender in terms of texture when it is cracked”.

But the star of Pérola da Ilha’s almonds is the popular almond, which “has no competition, is more sought after by Azoreans and is made with peanuts,” and is even more affordable in terms of price.

Francisco Paquete points out that almond production is sold through traditional stores and supermarkets, but there are those who go directly to the Pérola da Ilha store.

Curiously, the production of the almond by Pérola da Ilha – which has existed since the 1960s and was founded by Zélia and António Poim – happened by accident.

At the time, the owner bought some pots to increase the production of sugar peanuts, but they were intended for the production of almonds.

It was the logistical knowledge passed on to Pérola da Ilha by another businessman, from the Mira Lagoa factory at the time, that enabled the production of almonds to begin, taking advantage of the pots.

Francisco Paquete says that there was a time when the sugar used to make almonds came from the local beet crop, which has since disappeared.

The entrepreneur tried using sugar extracted from sugar cane, but the results were not what he wanted, and he now uses beet sugar imported from the Netherlands, safeguarding that, more than for commercial reasons, there are cultural and traditional motivations associated with its production.

In addition to almonds, the 22-strong factory sells snacks and frozen foods.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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