Many of you may know that tequila is made with blue agave or ‘agave azul’. What many of you may not know, is the range of varieties that there are. The tequila-making process is fascinating. With this in mind, here we look at how a plant grown in Jalisco, Mexico, transforms into outstanding tequila products.
Blue Agave Used In Tequila
There are over 300 different types of agave that grow in Mexico, yet it is only the blue variety of the plant that producers use for making tequila. Even more specifically, there is only one kind of blue agave that produces the spirit. This is the Blue Weber agave, from the Asparagaceae family. The use of this variety is down to its high concentrations of fructose, sugars that convert to alcohol. If you have a ‘tequila drink’ not made with Blue Weber Agave, it is not tequila.
Rules Around Tequila Production
Several rules are in place in the creation of authentic tequila. This is to protect the region producing tequila and to prevent low-cost and low-quality copies of the Mexican spirit.
- Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco are the only 5 states allowed to produce tequila
- Tequila must contain at least 51% Blue Weber agave tequilina
- The tequila has to have a minimum of 35% alcohol
- Double distillation of all tequila is mandatory
Top-class tequilas such as Avion Cristalino, are those that don’t just meet the minimum requirements but exceed them to create outstanding products. The very best tequilas will feature 100% agave, and distill the product multiple times to remove impurities.
The Process From Plant To Bottle
Farmers called ‘jimadores’ handpick the best agave, they will select ripe plants that can be anywhere from 8 to 14 years old. The jimador will remove the plant’s leaves to harvest its heart or ‘piña’. Once collected, they steam the plant heart inside an oven for 48-60 hours. This is a process to break up the heart’s cells and soften the flesh.
After crushing the soft agave hearts, separating the liquid from the flesh, they ferment the liquid. At this point, the sugar begins to convert to alcohol. This liquid will be distilled at least twice in stills before they fill bottles for consumption or barrels for aging.
The preservation and protection of Blue Weber agave and tequila-making processes are absolutely critical to these 5 Mexican states. Even when high-end tequila companies mass produce, there is still an artisan approach using years of experience. Because of this process, the products taste incredible.