"We returned to the country, to carve out a different sort of existence."
Exhausted by city living, we decided it was time to leave and seek a simpler life. We returned to the country, to carve out a different sort of existence. We chose the Alentejo because of its unique climate and atmosphere.
We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the culture, to understand the customs of its inhabitants, to become friends with the villagers and to honour the rural way of living, and that’s exactly what we did.
The cafe is the heart of the community. This is the place where relationships are built, where the mysteries of nature are unpicked, where the secrets of agriculture are shared. It is where a man learns the language of the animals. Here the intellectuals meet to debate and argue whilst they drink the finest fire water. From the first sip it begins to work its magic.
We wanted to learn about every stage of the Arbutus production cycle; the harvest, during which early risers set off into the wilderness to track down the finest trees; fermentation, a rigorous process requiring all the distiller’s ancient knowledge; distillation, an almost spiritual ritual during which the producers and their illustrious guests wait patiently for ‘the daughter of fire’, the Arbutus spirit. Finally comes the consumption of this ‘pinga’, which should be sipped amongst friends after a meal. It is said the drink helps with digestion, though less so with driving.
We are a family-run business and all our products come from the finest strawberry trees in the area. For us, this is a labour of love using traditional methods of production and locally sourced crops to create the ‘Zorra - Casa de Medronho’.
The operation began in the small town of Cova da Zorra, in an almost derelict former primary school. This building, an architectural symbol of the Salazarist regime is now, happily, the heart of the Zorra production process.
By the 1990s, many rural schools had closed down due to the mass exodus of the local people to urban centres, so it is of great pride to us that this school is now home to a thriving business.
The region’s name influenced the name of our brand, but it was also chosen for another reason. Zorra means ‘old fox’. If the word fox conjures the idea of mischief, an old fox surely denotes a lifetime of mischief. It is said that years ago there was, in Cova da Zorra, a ‘house of pleasure’. There is a local saying that goes like this; where honour once was gone, women could be counted in one hundred and one. Our goal is to honour the infamous fox, by using all the magical elements that Alantejo has to offer to create a charismatic identity that combines tradition and modernity.