Essential Citrus is a story of encounters.
It all starts where the salty Atlantic breeze meets the red clay soil of the Alentejo in Portugal.
Here, two visionaries encounter a poor land, an authentic land, a land where time seems to move on its own clock, as if in a time warp.
Ann and Jean-Paul leave a busy Paris, instantly seduced by the tranquility of Portugal. Hard to believe such a place exists, a new home for a new life, a place to create a garden, Lugar do Olhar Feliz.
They design this unique space, an oasis where all the senses meet - a treat for the eyes at the sight of the aesthetic harmony; a delight for the nose at the delicate fragrance of flowers, leaves and fruit ; an explosion of flavours and textures on the palate; joy at the touch of the natural elements; a pleasure for the ears at the sound of footsteps on gravel that merge with the surrounding wilderness.
With this incredible climate, growing possibilities are virtually infinite. It is the meeting of cultures and knowledge that gives rise to a passion for citrus, a family of fruit whose immensity captivates, inspires and incites curiosity.
Ann and Jean-Paul travel, discover, learn, collect and cultivate.
Naturally, their garden grows, so does their production of citrus, to the delight of gourmet restaurants and their chefs. They meet Vincent Farges, Michelin star chef, and explore Japan together in search of citrus that would please the European palate.
To share their passion, they look for young motivated Portuguese farmers willing to embark on a new adventure and so meet João and Vera. Together, they plant larger quantities of the citrus varieties waiting to be discovered by European chefs. Shikuwasa, Sudachi, Yuzu, Combava…
Lugar do Olhar Feliz becomes a place for acclimatizing citrus, to identify which variety grows well in this climate and what cultivation methods work best.
Then comes Aidan. A young professional in the field of natural cosmetics with a passion for fragrances and their sustainable sourcing. After distant travels in search of precious ingredients for perfumery, he became interested in oenology and decides to settle in Portugal.
He meets Ann, Jean-Paul, João and Vera and opens up to a new palette of aromas. Immersing himself in the world of rare citrus fruit, he fell in love with the Alentejo region and its people.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, restaurants close, the world seems to be on hold but nature, of course is not - the trees are thriving, covered in fruit. In order to preserve the exceptional qualities of the citrus, Jean-Paul and Aidan go in search of the best method to extract their essential oils while taking into account a crucial element, the water scarcity in this region.
After months of research and training, the solvent-free microwave method (SFME) is adopted, the first machine installed and the first extracts carefully elaborated.