Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a tour of a local sweet and biscuit factory, that was organised my friend Tobi. A short drive across Funchal and into the area of Sao Roque, the factory is well hidden in a residential road, fronted by a typical coffee shop. As we arrived, we were unsure that we were in the right place, for something that produces a large amount of candy, cakes and biscuit products on the island, the building looked very small.
Jorge, the owner and proprietor of Martins and Martins LDA warmly greeted us and ushered us inside ready for the tour. The factory was buzzing with activity and it felt like we had stepped into a tardis. The delicious smells of sugary edibles and mouthwatering aromas of freshly baked biscuits pervaded every corner of the place, packers were packing and machines were whirring as several different products were being prepared at the same time.
Our first question was raised as we looked at the fruit that was being crystallized in steel basins (as the picture shows above). A sweet zesty scent that no one recognised as well as the large size of pre-stone pitted fruits had us all guessing what they were. Locally sourced from the North of the island, these dried chunks of Cidra are used to adorn the infamous Kings cakes that are sold throughout the Christmas season. We were offered samples to taste, which was really quite delicious!
Next stop was the mixing area. Yesterday they were baking biscuits and we were able to watch the process and sample some of the finished baked products.
Once the mixture has been made, it is emptied into a basin at the top of the machine, where trays are filled with small dollops of the biscuit mixture.
Jorge Martins is the director of the family run company which was started by his father in 1982. Some of the staff have worked for him for over 20 years and the atmosphere was of a happy family orientated work space. M&M LDA use locally sourced ingredients. Their honey comes from a Hive in Calheta, their fruits from the North of the island, and other ingredients from local suppliers. Their range of products supplies the supermarket chain Continente, local stores and cruise ships when they come into Port. They also export to the UK and Switzerland and are looking to expand their market in that direction.
The company also make the famous Madeira Cake (Bolo do Mel) which is similar to a moist British Christmas cake and not the fluffy sponge that is sold in the UK under the same name. We didn’t manage to see the sweets being made that day but have promised a return trip in January when they will show us they are made.