Mexico is the center of genus origin for the Agavaceae
family. Currently there are some 200 known agave species; more than half are found in Mexico.
agave arose approximately 8 million years ago in the country’s Central Highlands.
are used interchangeably, even if the plants are not exactly the same, to refer to almost any species bearing fleshy leaves known as pencas.
they lived in proximity to these plants, local ancient peoples subjected them to selection processes according to each variety’s use and consumption patterns, specifically for fibers and the production of agave mead known as aguamiel. Plants with higher sugar concentrations were selected and cultivated to guarantee mexcalli (i.e., mescal) supplies.
Mexican-produced mescal varieties come from the stems of numerous mescalero agaves. These plants are blue-green, with long, fibrous, lance-shaped leaves.
Mescal agaves are grown in clay soils in semi-arid climates that are free from sudden temperature changes. They are planted at the beginning of the rainy season, they are harvested when the plant reaches maturity (after 6 to 8 years). They range from the North Pacific to the South Pacific regions as well as from the North Highlands Region (Nuevo León) and the North Gulf Region to the Yucatán.
Mescal is an alcoholic beverage found in a number of areas around the country that is made by distilling sugars extracted from the core of the agave (the piña, i.e., its stems and leaf bases), which has been boiled and left to ferment. The final product results from the agave species used, as well as climate, fermentation and distillation techniques, and the container in which the spirit is stored and aged.
Jima is the process of cutting agave leaves and roots with a hook-shaped implement known as a coa, machete or barretón to remove the plant’s the core (called the head or the piña).
The blue variety of Tequilana Weber Agave is the only agave authorized for making tequila, one of Mexico’s most emblematic products. Similarly it can only be produced in the Tequila region, in the state of Jalisco, because that region attained an AOC (i.e., designation of origin control) in 1977.
The jima process employed to extract sugars in the agave head (or piña) is similar to that of mescal, but in the case of tequila, at least two distillations are required alongside careful filtrations to remove impurities and soften overall flavor.
Differences between tequilas arise from several factors, including the terroir of the land where the agave was grown, what water is used and the processes each manufacturer follows. This diversity greatly enriches the market offering.
Bananas in tequila sauce