A simple and clear explanation of what is tequila made from is sugar. Tequilas’ history and culture are deeply rooted in Mexican heritage. The spirit is used in popular cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise, the Paloma, and of course, the Margarita.
The scientific term is Agave tequilana otherwise known as blue weber agave. Its believed that Tequila has health benefits and can help in soothing sore throat, easing congestion, and aiding with sleep.
It is said the Aztecs (a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico between 1300 to 1521) discovered tequila by accident. It was raining when lightning struck an agave plant and they noticed the plant oozing liquid that had a sweet taste and smell. They found out that when the liquid is left alone, it ferments into what we now know as tequila.
Today Tequila is one of the most popular drinks in Mexico and around the globe!
What is Tequila
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from blue agave and produced only in five areas of Mexico. This versatile spirit can be mixed in cocktails or sip it on its own. There are different types of Tequilas and popular tequila brands around the world!
Similarly to champagne in France, only the drink made in Mexico can be rightly called tequila.
What does Tequila mean?
The word tequila probably comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language and translates to “the place where plants are harvested,” or possibly “the place where a lot of work is done”.
Where is Tequila from
Tequila is only produced inside the Mexican state of Jalisco, which is also the birthplace of Mexican cultural staples like the Mariachi and sombrero. It’s also produced in some Mexican municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
The agave plants grow on land that cannot support food crops and has adapted to need very little water.
South Africa produces the most agave outside of Mexico and SA was also the first country outside of Mexico to produce “Tequila” – it goes by the name agave
What is Tequila made from
The main ingredient is blue agave (not cactus). The agave plant is closely related to both the lily family (amaryllis) and asparagus, it looks like a giant aloe vera with spiked barbs on the tips.
There are two main types of Agave that grows in the Western side of Mexico. In the highlands, agave grows in rich red soil with high iron content that produces a tequila that’s soft and fruity. In the valley region, the agave has deeper vegetal notes and minerals.
The agave plant also provides fiber for clothing, brushes, spoons, nets, fans, rope, and even paper. The central stems make musical instruments and are strong enough to be used for building, with leaves that provide roofing. Leaves can also be used for fuel. Sharp spines made pins and sewing needles, as well as arrowheads.
Tequila is made from a mixture of two sources of sugars, where at least 51% must be sugars from agave, with the other 49% made up of fermentable sugars or cane spirits.
How is Tequila made
The agave is a succulent plant that takes 7-10 years to grow and it produces a large pineapple lookalike bulb called a piña. Once the plant is harvested it can’t be reused.
The leaves are removed and the heart of the piñas are cut out and slowly baked in steam or brick ovens until the piña softens and starches are converted to simple fermentable sugars.
The baked agave is crushed to extract the sweet juice, which is then fermented with yeast to convert the sugar into alcohol.
During the fermentation process, the sugars are transformed into alcohol within large wooden vats or stainless steel tanks. Yeast can be added to accelerate and control the fermentation.
Traditionally, the yeast that grows naturally on the agave leaves is used; however, today many distilleries use a cultivated form of wild yeast. Fermentation typically takes seven to twelve days, depending on the method used.
Agave-plant distillation in Mexico falls into two categories: mezcal and tequila.