Portugal is one of the world’s major cork growers; as much as one third of the total cork oak area is in Portugal, which accounts for about half of the cork harvested annually in the world.
The cork oak loves the western Mediterranean climate, which means the Algarve is the region where the best quality cork is obtained. Cork oak also grows in Alentejo.
Cork is a light, flexible, elastic material, impervious to moisture, to liquid and gaseous substances. Its qualities led to the industrial utilization of the material. With the invention of glass bottles, cork became important for the stopper industry.
Portuguese cork production is directed at big consumer markets such as USA, UK, Germany. The industry represents 16% of the total foreign income derived from trade.
The English Cork Factory Museum (Museu da Cortiça da Fábrica do Inglês)
Located in Silves, Museu da Cortiça da Fábrica do Inglês is dedicated to the history of cork as well as to the history of the city where it’s located. The Audiovisual Room is where you’ll see a video detailing the process of cork production. The Interpretation Room is dedicated to the cork, the machines, the presses and the workshops involved in the production.
Opened in 1999, it’s currently one of the most visited museums in the Algarve region. Unfortunately the official website is only in Portuguese, making it a hassle to figure out entrance fees and opening hours.
Cork Factory Tour
It is possible to tour cork factories. However, it’s quite impossible to book a tour independently. There are companies which organize such tours for groups and most often cork factory tours are combined with a visit to the museum and/or wine tasting.