The Cork Oak (Quercus suber) is a medium-sized, evergreen oak tree native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa.
It grows to up to 20 m, although it is typically more stunted in its native environment.
1. CORK OAK
There are about 2,200,000 hectares of cork forest worldwide: 33% in Portugal, and 23% in Spain.
Cork Oak Trees live for about 200 years
2. CORK FOREST
Once the trees are about 25 years old the cork is stripped from the trunks every nine years.
The cork harvesting is an ancient procedure done only by experts, in order to maintain the tree integrity and health.
The trunk is slashed vertically on a prominent fissure. Simultaneously, with a twist of the axe, the cork board is separated from the bark.
3. CORK HARVESTING
The cork board is separated from the trunk by inserting the axe's edge between both then is carefully extracted from the tree, so it doesn't break. The bigger the
board is, the more valuable it will be.
After the first board is extracted, the process is repeated until all usable cork is taken from the oak.
4. SEPARATING & EXTRACTING
After the extraction, the tree is left with a cork skirting around its trunk's base. Finally, the harvester applies some blows to the skirting with the ax's back, so to remove any existing parasites.
The tree is marked in white paint with the extraction year's last digit, to keep track of the next harvest.
Every 9 years, a new layer of cork will be ready for extraction
5. UNSHOE & MARKING OF OAK
After harvesting, the boards are stacked in the forest or near the plant.
They stay exposed to open air, sun and rain. The stacking obeys to very strict rules. The resting period should not be less than 6 months.