Tequila is a popular alcohol in North America, but its origins can be traced back to Mexico. It was first made by the Aztec people, who used the blue agave plants that were naturally grown on the land. Agave plants produce a natural liquid and are an important part of tequila. From margaritas to tequila shots, this alcoholic beverage can be used for a variety of bar drinks.
The first step of the tequila-making process is harvesting the beautiful blue agave plant. This task requires manual labor. Mexican farmer workers, as known as “Jimadores”, carefully carve out a special portion of the plant. To get the ripest part, the Jimadores use a knife called a “Coa” to remove the center piece. The center of the agave plant produces the most juice and sugars, which makes for the best tequila.
Once the agave is removed, it is shipped over to a facility where they can start cooking the plant. It is cooked and softened to start the juice extraction. In brick ovens or steel autoclaves, the plant is injected with steam at 100 ⁰C to extract a liquid called “cooking honey”. The extraction process takes place over a couple hours until the liquid can finally be removed. Next, it is combined with a solution of sugars. It is important to note – the agave should not be overcooked! If it is overcooked, the tequila may retain a smoky flavor, which is not desirable.
Fermentation and Distillation
The fermentation process involves yeast, water, and the agave juice. The combination of these three ingredients is called “Mosto”. The fermentation takes place in either wood or stainless steel vats for several days to convert the sugars into alcohol.
After fermentation of the ingredients are finished, a cloudy or milky liquid is produced. Next, the second distillation transforms the milky liquid into clear silver Tequila. Some distilleries go as far as three distillations!
Bottling and Aging
After the steps above are completed, the tequila can be bottled for consumption. Tequila can also be aged in wooden barrels for a richer, deeper flavor. Some companies may choose to enhance the flavor with natural colorants and sweeteners to alter the taste. So if you’re drinking Tequila Silver or sometimes called “Tequila Blanco”, it is clear and typically un-aged. With Tequila Reposado, the tequila is rested and aged between 2 months and 11 months.
From harvesting to bottling, the process of making tequila is something to be appreciated. The time and work involved in making this drink is worth it, especially for creating the perfect tequila-based beverage. So whether you want to drink it straight, or have it mixed in your margarita, choose tequila!
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