After the conquest of Mexico in 1519, the cultivation of tequila began. The word tequila, known by many as a Mexican drink, originates from a small Mexican town called Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, where the drink has been produced for many years.
Tequila is derived from a plant that has indelibly marked the Mexican countryside: the blue agave. Mexico is home to over 136 different agave plants but only agave tequiliana plants can be used in the production of tequila. At a temperature of 68 degrees, the agave plant is grown in red clay-rich soil, 5000 feet above sea level, where the skies are overcast between 70 and 100 days a year.
The production of tequila begins with the jimador, the man who cultivates the blue agave by cutting the leaves and the underground stem. The jimador can tell if the agaves are ready for cutting simply by looking at them. He cuts the leaves with a single stroke and exposes the piña, or the heart of the agave. With some piñas weighing up to 300 pounds, jimadores must carry them, on their heads over slippery muddy fields, to the truck that transports them to the distillery.
Once at the factory, the piñas are cut and placed in an oven which converts the starch into sugars. After being cooked, they are placed in crushing mills where the juice extracted will be fermented into ethyl alcohol in special tanks. Fermented juices are twice passed through heated stills where they are evaporated and then condensed back into the drink we know as tequila.
Pure tequila is made of 100% agave and does not contain any added sugars. Tequila mixto (mixed) is comprised of other sugars and the percentage of agave depends on the ingredients used. In order to be considered tequila, the drink must contain at least 60% agave.
There are three basic types of tequila. Blanco tequila is as clear as water and has the purest flavor because it is bottled after the second distillation process. Reposado, or rested tequila, the most popular, is stored for a month in holm oak barrels, affording the drink its tawny color. Añejo tequila is also stored in holm oak barrels and may be stored for over a year in order to achieve a more distinctive oaky flavor.
There are many different types of tequila but the best one is the one you love best!