Cork is a wonder of nature: it grows only on one tree, the cork oak tree, Quercus Suber L ! Cork oak plantations cover approx. an area of 2.5 million hectares, basically in Portugal (with has more than 52% of the world production) and other countries along the Mediterranean basin, being the main ones: Spain (26%), Italy (7%), Morocco (6%), Algeria (5%), France (3%) and Tunisia (2%).
The "Cork Tree" (oak) has a lifespan of 200-250 years. The first harvest occurs when the tree is between 20 to 25 years old and provides the so-called "virgin" cork. The "virgin" cork has a hard and irregular structure and not suitable for natural cork stoppers production, though it is an important raw material for many industrial compounds.
After extracting the “virgin” cork a new layer of cork starts growing and it takes approximately 9 years for this layer to reach the desirable and necessary thickness for it’s primary application, the production of Natural Cork Stoppers. This second crop is called "secondary cork" and the ones thereafter as "amadia".
During it’s lifespan, a Cork Tree allows about 15-16 harvests repeated every 9 years, producing hundreds of kilos at each crop and survives in a very poor climacteric environment. The cork stripping is assured by skilled labour and does not harm the tree in any way, being a vital process for the tree’s reinvigoration.
Cork production is guaranteed with new re-plantations every year. Trees are never cut down or removed without government permission, which supervises and regulates this activity.
In fact, Portugal and more recently also Spain and other producing countries have been particularly careful with its cork forests. Portuguese regulations protecting cork oak trees date from the 14th century and have been reinforced during the last years. Cork, a true environmentally friendly product!