São Bras - Cork
A large industry factor in São Bras and its surroundings is the production and processing of Cork. The beginning of the 19th century made the economic prosperity of the place possible. São Brás is considered as one of the world's most important production centers of Cork. There is a museum in the city center that shows the history and manufacturing of Cork articles, as well as witnesses of the Roman settlement in 2nd century BC. It also has a bishop's garden, called "Verbana" with a Baroque fountain and eight nozzles. The church "Igreja Matrix", built after the devastating earthquake of 1755 is reminiscent of those past times.
In the vicinity of São Bras there are wide hilly areas on which Cork oaks grow. The trees are not close to each other maintaining enough distance in-between them, as they need space so that the bark can develop optimally.
The bark can be harvested every nine years. The bark is cut from the tree with a special axe. It’s very important that the bottom cell layer is not damaged, so that the bark grows back again and to be harvested as often as possible. A tree can be up to 150 years old. After harvesting, the tree receives, the number of the year in which the bark has been removed.
The harvest of the Cork has been made by small farmers in this area, for centuries. They sell the raw material to processing companies. A farmer gets about 3 euro for 1 kilo of good quality Cork. It is only weighed twenty days after delivery. Until then, the bark loses every day one percent of weight because it dries. It is then disinfected by boiling them for one hour at 100 degrees, then pressed and dried again, and then further processed.
There where 60 of such factories 10 years ago, today there are all but six left, since the Cork was processed in large part to make bottle Corks. Since the plastic Cork or metal closures have become increasingly more popular, sales have fallen sharply. With new production methods one can now produce Cork sheets, which can be further processed like leather.
Modern designers discovered therefore new applications and process the material into many fashion accessories or practical subjects such as Jewelry, umbrellas, bags, shoes, computer mouse and much more.