12 Important Facts About Tequila

Bottle of vivir tequila blanco

1 The agave plant is not a cactus.

Even if both agave and cactus are classified as succulents, the agave plant is not a cactus. In fact, it is closer to a lily than a cactus. Agave only flowers once during its lifetime while most cacti do so regularly. Also, agave has leaves and cactus does not.

2 You want to buy a tequila that is made from 100% Blue Weber agave.

There are 125 agave plants growing in Mexico, but by law, only Blue Weber can be used to make tequila. Also, check the label before buying a bottle as there are tequilas made with only 51% Blue Agave. These are known as mixto.

3 The blue agave plant can only be used once.

It takes five to ten years for the Blue Weber agave plant to grow, and once it has reached maturity, the heart (piña) is used to make tequila. The harvest of these is done by hand by a skilled jimador. One piña can weigh up to 200 pounds and one jimador can harvest up to 160 in a day!

Jimador harvesting agave for tequila
Credit: Rudy Prather via Unsplash

4 Terroir matters in tequila.

Even if only one type of plant is used to make tequila, the terroir where it has been grown will impact the flavour of the tequila. It is considered that Tequila Valley (lowlands) produces earthy, peppery and herbal tequilas, as compared to tequilas from Los Altos (highlands), which can be fruity and floral. 

5 There should be no worm in tequila.

Firstly, the worm can be found in a mezcal bottle, but not in tequila. And secondly, it is not a worm at all, but a moth larva that feeds off the maguey plant. Even when it comes to mezcal, this is not a common tradition and you are better off buying a bottle without any extras in it, as the larvae are more often a marketing gimmick than anything else.

6 Tequila is protected by Denomination of Origin.

Tequila is recognised as a Mexican designation of origin product in over 40 countries. The appellation of origin only allows tequila to be produced in Jalisco (where 99% of tequila is made) and parts of four states: Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.

Blue Weber Agave
Credit: Joe Pilie via Unsplash

7 There’s an official tequila glass.

The official tequila glass is designed by Riedel and it looks a lot like a Champagne flute with a narrow opening. The shape and size of the bowl will help you to fully detect the finest aromas.

8 There is a category for flavoured tequila.

This category, known as Curados, was only launched in 2006 and it includes tequilas flavoured with natural ingredients such as citrus, pineapple, pear, berries or even cooked agave. Certain curados are only required to contain a minimum of 25% agave spirit*, which means the rest can be cane- or corn sugars. Saying that, there are many Curados available that are made using 100% agave base. Additional sweeteners, colouring and flavouring is allowed, up to 75ml per litre as per all tequilas.

*Liquor with added tequila (min 25%) vs liquor of tequila (min 51%)

Tequila Pancho Datos Plata

9 Drink tequila at room temperature.

If you serve tequila at room temperature, you can experience the aroma and flavours properly. Serve it too cold and you won’t be able to smell any of it.

10 Salt and lime is used to mask the taste of bad tequila.

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as bad tequila (often not made from 100% blue agave) and the salt and lime were a marketing gimmick to help mask the taste of low-quality tequilas. You should simply choose good-quality tequilas and sip them neat to fully enjoy the flavours and aroma.

Up your tequila game with these tips!

11 Scientists are making diamonds out of tequila.

Wait, what….?!

Scientists discovered that when they heat 80-proof tequila, the vapour can reach extremely high temperatures. This hot vapour is then placed on stainless-steel trays to create impurity-free diamond films. These diamond films can be used for industrial and electronic devices. Unfortunately, tequila diamond jewellery is not a thing just yet.

12 Tequila production depends on bats.

Bats are primary pollinators of agave. During the night, bats drink from the agave flowers, thus spreading agave seeds.

Unfortunately, monocropping can also be used to grow new plants. The plant is harvested before it flowers and the sprouts are taken from the agave roots to replant and grow new agave. Monocropping decreases the genetic diversity, making the plant susceptible to diseases, which can then in the long run lead to shortages of tequila (and increased prices!). It also drives bats away as they have no flowers to attend to.

Tequila brands should focus on bat-friendly practices. For example, Ocho allows at least five percent of its agave plants to flower, which has already helped in bringing back some of the bats.

Blue agave harvest
Credit: David Garcia via Unsplash

Any other interesting facts about tequila I may have missed?

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