Originated in Jalisco a western Mexican state, Tequila is a distilled spirit available in clear, brown or golden colours depending on their maturation process. It has an earthy, fruity and slightly sweet flavour. Tequila has been leading the new craft agave (more on that later) movement across the world and in India for a while now.
There is no doubt that we all drink enough tequila but only a handful of us are aware of what the spirit is actually all about. Worry not for we have compiled a list of the top 10 unknown facts about Tequila that one must know.
Tequila is a mezcal but mezcal is not a tequila
Both Mezcal and Tequila are plant-based spirits, which means they are made from a plant called Agave – and no it does not make it a salad! There are approximately 25 – 30 types of agave plants that contain natural sugar to make mezcal. Out of these 25-30 types of agave, tequila is only made from one variety called ‘Blue Agave’ also called ‘Agave Tequilana’. For a mezcal to be called a tequila, the spirit must be at least 51% derived from blue agave.
Tequila is officially classified into 5 categories or types. Blanco, also known as Silver tequila, and Joven, also known as Gold, are the youngest varieties whereas Añejo and Extra Añejo are aged from one-three years and are considered the oldest (and most expensive) varieties. When we are talking about the old or new variety we are referring to the duration of the resting period of the spirit. Generally, tequila is aged/rested for uptown three years but in the other types, the resting duration varies from a couple of months to two years.
Back To 300 AD
Imagine the oldest thing you know. Now multiply that 100 or maybe 200 times, and well, you will find that whatever the answer is, Tequila is still older than that. Yes, you read it right, Tequila’s history dates back to 250 to 300 A.D. The agave plant’s juice was fermented by Aztec Indians and used to make their ceremonial drink called Pulque, the forerunner of tequila. It was thought to be a crucial component of their nutrition. The first documentation of this beverage was engraved on stone walls, appearing around 200 A.D. while the first commercial distillation of tequila happened in 1758.
Tequila a day keeps doctors away?!
Studies have shown that Tequila has health benefits (of course if consumed in moderation). Tequila is made up of an indigestible sugar called agavins, it moves through the body without being used for energy. A study from the American Chemical Society says tequila could have the heart-healthy ability to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. A few other studies also suggest that Tequila is gluten-free, helps in digestion and might be linked to weight loss.
The Spanish flu connect
Tequila played an important role in 1918, during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Tequila mixed with lime and salt was advised by doctors to patients as a part of their medicine to ease their symptoms. Fast forward to today, while Tequila is not considered a medicine (not talking about broken hearts), it is still used by many to soothe sore throats, ease congestion and aid with sleep/insomnia.
Just like wine, tequila’s flavour is majorly dependent on the natural environment and soil in which the agave plant is grown and where the spirit is produced. For Example, the tequila from Mexico’s highlands is packed with grassy, earthy and slightly sweet flavour while the spirit produced in the lowlands has a mineral-y and earthy taste.
A team of Mexican scientists experimented with tequila and discovered that when mixed with a few organic solutions, the spirit can be turned into synthetic diamond. For this process, tequila is deposited in a silicone or stainless steel substrate. Before you get all excited about Tequila Studs, let us also tell you that the size of the diamonds produced is too tiny to be used in jewellery. Here’s hoping that maybe someday, someone will crack the code.
Tacos, Tequila, Margaritas
One can make a variety of tequila cocktails and yet Margarita has sustained the position of the most popular tequila-based cocktail. In India, Paloma has found favour among tequila lovers to a great extent as well.
Drink like a Mexican
Most people drink tequila either as a shot or mixed in a cocktail but Mexicans thoroughly enjoy their drink neat. They consume it one sip at a time to savour its flavour as tequila is considered a sophisticated spirit. In fact, consuming salt and lime along with tequila is considered a cheap substitute by the Mexicans as these are used to mask the flavour.
Tequila on the rise
Mexico has a GI on tequila and subsequently has the world’s largest and highest-rated tequila distilleries. According to Mexico’s Ministry of Economy and the Agricultural Markets Consulting Group, the export in tequila sales in 2022 was of USD 3.6 billion between January and October which was the highest ever. They also added that the sales saw a 34.1 per cent jump. All of which is to say that the world seems to have woken up to the wonders of this spirit just as the Aztec Indians first did.
How many of these facts did you know already and which ones surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below if you have a special tequila memory to share as well.
Images courtesy: Unsplash
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Palak Khandelwal is a chai enthusiast and a writer on her journey to making a career in journalism