Sweet as Honey: Exploring Quinta do Mel

Sweet as Honey: Exploring Quinta do Mel

By: Sara Alves

Close to the sea and with a view towards the countryside, Quinta do Mel offers the best of two worlds

In the whitewashed building and all around, there are only the sounds and smells of nature. Arriving at Quinta do Mel in Albufeira, you will feel like you have dived into country life, with views over the vast hectares of oat and the beautiful gardens of aromatic herbs, when, in fact, only 1km separates this agrotourism from the beach.

In 19 years, Quinta do Mel went from just a few farming grounds to a charming rural tourism unit with a gourmet shop, tea room and restaurant. This is thanks to the effort of five generations from a family passionate about farming and livestock, and who want to share with visitors the best the Algarve has to offer.

Agricultural engineer Luís Silva, 47 years old, is one of the people behind the success of this 840ha agrotourism, which is biologically certified. The farm is mostly known for “serving breakfast with no set time to end, preserving the tradition of tea time, and selling organic products produced in the family’s estates.” The family also operates an accommodation unit in perfect harmony with the serenity of nature.

Quinta do Mel

But the big investment for 2019 is in the restaurant area, with the revamping of a vast menu inspired in the Mediterranean diet, including several traditional dishes with a gourmet twist and, for the most part, made using ingredients produced in their estates, something Luís takes pride in.

“Most of the food we serve is produced by us, from the condiments to the legumes and vegetables and even the meat.” This is a sustainable strategy using a circular economy — the grounds that provide the food are the same that offer the raw materials for the teahouse and restaurant to the guests’ delight.

In 2000, Luís Silva began using the plots at Quinta do Mel to develop his work as a beekeeper. “I processed the honey and I’d give guided tours of the bees. Visitors would put on the beekeeper suits, observed the whole process and, at the end, I sold the honey,” he explains. After that, Luís named the place Quinta do Mel (honey farm), and eventually added other family-produced goods to what he already sold there. “We were so successful that, after two years, we were selling them in renowned stores such as El Corte Inglés, in Lisbon, or Harrods [in London].”

After four years, Luís decided Quinta do Mel had potential to evolve as a business and so the family injected money into it, aiming to fully salvage the property and turn it into a rural tourism unit, teahouse and gourmet shop. “We opened with 10 rooms, but have since expanded the accommodation area, and have another two modern apartments.” The rooms’ names pay homage to several villages in inland Algarve, such as Alte, Cachopo or Querença.

“We believe the Algarve has more to offer than just sun and beaches, and we want to pique our visitors’ curiosity.”

Luís Silva

Inside the rooms, guests can admire the typical regional décor, with reed ceilings, rustic furniture and floors tilled with Santa Catarina azulejos (traditional tiles). But you do not have to stay at Quinta do Mel to enjoy all its gastronomic pleasures. The restaurant is open to the public every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving dishes that have long become popular, such as the prawns with honey sauce, goat-cheese pastry with pumpkin jam and the stuffed veal, among others. However, the revamped menu now has several new items, such as polvo à lagareiro (octopus roasted with potatoes and plenty of olive oil), or prawn açorda (bread stew) served in a bread bowl.

“For me, 2019 is the year we consolidate our gastronomic offer,” says Luís. This is also why every product for sale at the shop is from the Algarve. “Everything we sell here is also produced by us or acquired from local producers who share our philosophy.” This is the case with flor de sal, olive oil or medronho firewater. “And the same happens with Algarve wines,” he assures.

Another standout feature of this agrotourism that always amazes guests is the aromatic herb garden with over 20 varieties, which provide around 40 types of tea infusions to be tasted onsite or bought at the gourmet shop.

“The teahouse is a way of maintaining tradition, using herbs picked on the spot. We then serve fresh-herb teas or, depending on tastes, blends processed by us.” As for the packaged tea, everything is processed by hand, and later sold at the shop and online. “Our tea production is limited so we decided to sell it exclusively at our teahouse and on the website.” The teas can be paired with scones, pancakes or traditional local pastries.

If you want to know more about Quinta do Mel and their production, you can do so on Thursdays at around 10.30am, when Luís gives a tour of the farm, sharing the story of the company’s evolution and showcasing the production process of different products.

“I explain and show how we respect every organic farming standard but mostly how we always respect nature without pushing it […]. In the end, the goal is to harmoniously combine production, gastronomy and accommodation. They all complement each other and, together, make all the difference in offering a unique and distinctive experience.”

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