The Calheta Sugar Cane Mill

The Sugar Cane Mill... still working hard, just like in the old days…

Hot steam, the smell of sugar cane honey, employee working hard ...
Calheta Sugar Cane Mill
Engenho da Calheta

The time has arrived… the factory´s chimney begins to release smoke and truck loads of sugar canes sit patiently, waiting for their turn.

Every year from mid-April to mid-May, Calheta´s Sugar Cane Mill works non-stop, day and night.

Sugar canes must be harvested within a few hours; otherwise they will become dry and useless. Currently, labourers book their positions many months in advance as this type of work pays very well.

The Mill
The Mill

The old steam engine has been in operation since 1894. Funchal and Porto da Cruz also have sugar cane factories, which are still in operation. The cultivation of sugar cane was the first significant agricultural product in Madeira, and was responsible great prosperity of the island.This "White Gold" was first imported from some of the distant colonies.

Sugar Cane Syrup
Steam Boiler

In all floors at the sugar cane mill you will find labourers working hard to keep the machines running. With tremendous force large gear wheels are set into motion. The noise and stuffy air are not the greatest of working conditions for these labourers.

Here you can get a feel on how difficult the working conditions were for the labourers ancestors, who worked here in past centuries,

On the first floor can see how the Sugar Cane is unloaded and transported, with the help of a crane, onto a machine. Following this,  workers pull the stems with a large rake into the machine, where it all falls down below upon the conveyor belt to be crushed by gear wheels. The juice is then gathered and processed. On the other side you can see into a huge steam pot. The air smells of a little alcohol and sweet as it is here that the sugar cane is transformed into “Sugar Cane Rum” and “Sugar Cane Honey” (similar to molasses). The mill´s employees will offer you a tasty sample of the sugar cane honey.

Honey Cake "Bolo de Mel"
40-Kg Bolo de Mel

Honey Cake, and a refreshing “Poncha” ...

The “Bolo de Mel’s”, a traditional honey cake, main ingredient is sugar cane honey. Calheta offers the best honey cake, which produced fresh is always tastier.
The factory´s top floor has two rooms for exhibitions where you can learn how a giant honey cake is made. This giant honey cake weighs forty kilos (around 88 pounds).

 The Poncha is a tasty regional drink which is prepared with sugar cane rum, honey (bee honey) and lemon juice (some opt for orange or passion fruit juice). There is an old room at the factory that will serve samples of this delicious drink. Eye-catching shelves filled with bottles of sugar cane rum of various ages are on display for visitors to see. If the weather is favourable, you may sit on a wicker chair on the terrace, drinking a refreshing poncha while enjoying a gorgeous view of the mountain.

You may visit the Sugar Cane Factory throughout the year. Entrance is free.

Photo Gallery

  • Rechtliche Informationen:
    2008-2017 © Madeira A - Z