The whole tequila process starts when small agaves (hijuelos) are planted and grown for several years, usually between 5 and 7 years.
During this time, to make sure that the plants grow healthy, they are cared for, weeded, pruned (barbeo), and watched for pests.
Agaves are not watered since they benefit efficiently from the rainy season to achieve growth all year long.
Once the plants have achieved the characteristics required to produce Tequila, all their leaves are cut off and the piñas (agave heads) are removed from the ground. This harvesting process is so special that it is known worldwide as "jima" and is done by hand using a long, sharp utensil called "coa". This traditional method has been transmitted from generation to generation. A good "jimador" can harvest up to 3,000 kilos of agave in a day.
The piñas (Agave heads) are placed in masonry ovens or steel containers (autoclaves) where the steam softens their texture and their starches become sugars suitable for fermentation. This process can take 50 to 72 hours when it is done in a masonry oven, or 8 to 14 hours if it is done in an autoclave.
In this stage, the cooked piñas are pressed to obtain their sugars and, through the injection of pressurized water, a fermentable juice is made. This process has gone through several changes, from the use of the "tahona" or mill stone to the modern diffuser.
Immediately after this, the category of the Tequila is determined by defining the percentage of agave sugar and/or other natural sugars to be used.
The yeast transforms the sugars, turning them into alcohol. The type of yeast used and the nutrients added to determine the flavor and characteristics that Tequila will have. Fermentation usually takes 24 to 72 hours.
The fermented juices are distilled twice in pot stills or in distillation towers. From the "destrozamiento" (the first distillation), a liquid with an alcohol level of nearly 20% is obtained and put through the "rectificación" (the second distillation), which raises its alcohol level. The result is a clear, colorless liquid, already considered tequila.
Tequila can be stored in white oak barrels, which are vats also called "pipones" which acquire elements from the wood. The treatment through which these containers were put or the prior uses they were given will also influence the final characteristics of the tequila.
Tequila is filtered and its alcohol content is adjusted to a commercial level similar to that of most spirit drinks around the world, and it is then put in bottles that feature a great assortment of sizes, shapes, and designs.
Here are the top tequila drinks to make with a bottle!
Everybody can enjoy a drink, whether it's a traditional margarita or a tequila sunrise.