Rum and cane in Madeira

CALHETA IS A COASTAL town in Madeira about 1.5 hours drive west of the capital, Funchal. We went there for an outing to see something of Madeira away from its capital. While there we saw an interesting factory-cum-museum.

The island of Madeira was once a major producer of sugar cane. Some of the work was performed by black slaves, but unlike other places such as Brazil, the slaves in Madeira tended to be ‘employed ‘ as domestics and builders. Today, sugar cane is till grown in Madeira,  but the workers are local Madeirans.

Cane pressing machinery in Calheta

In Calheta,there is an enterprise called Sociedad dos Enghennos da Calheta. This is a factory where sugar cane is crushed between rollers to extract the sugar cane juice.  The juice is fermented in the factory to produce rum. It is also processed to make molasses. The place also makes traditional Madeiran cake called Bolo de Mel and soecial biscuits. All of these products can be sampled and bought at the factory. Visitors are free to wander around the factory and its attached museum, which contains a fine collection of vintage industrial machinery.

As with other museums we have seen in Madeira, the exhibits are well displayed. Although the main attraction of Calheta is its sandy beach – the only one in Madeira: it is created using sand imported from North Africa, the rum and cane factory/museum is well worth a visit.

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