The Process of Tequila Making
Tequila is an extracted beverage made from blue agave that has its origin in the city of Tequila, Northwest of Guadalajara, located in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. Tequila is produced under strict government regulations restricting the production to the state of Jalisco and limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
Tequila is a drink that generally has between 38 – 40% alcohol, but some other distillers could take it to 55%. The production process of tequila is basically in five stages but with an optional sixth stage of aging. They are as follows:
*Harvest the agave plant – the plant is usually harvested at a ripe maturity age of 8-10 years old. Unlike other plants for alcoholic beverages, the agave plant does not renew itself.
*Cook the agave plant – the cooking process depends on the scope of production. The traditional approach uses a stove or oven commonly called a hornos and usually takes up 36 hours or more to be thoroughly cooked. The industrial method uses autoclave and can complete the cooking in about 12 hours. The cooking helps convert the starch in the agave to sugar.
*Remove the aguamiel – aguamiel is the agave juice. The traditional method uses a huge milling stone which is not as effective as the industrial technique that comprises of motors, gears and steel rollers. The more tenderly the juice is handled the better the quality at the end of the production process.
*Fermentation – this process coverts the sugar in the agave juice to alcohol upon addition of yeast into the container. As the progress continues with the increase in the alcohol content, the yeast activity diminishes and eventually brings an end to the fermentation process.
*Distillation – the alcohol content after distillation is between 5% and 7% while the distillation process raises the alcohol level to 20% at first then to about 40% during the re-distillation.
*Aging – this process is usually for reposado, and anejo types of tequila where a higher quality in terms of colour, taste and smoothness is required. The tequila is kept in an oak container for a certain period of time. The smaller the container, the greater the quality of the tequila.
Tequila is categorised according to its degree of quality and the state of aging. There are four major kinds, namely, Joven abogado, blanco, reposado, and anejo.
Joven abogado refers to young tequila because it is produced from a mixture of agave and other forms of sugar. That is why it is called mixto meaning mixture.
Blanco sometimes called plata which literarily means white. It is the kind of tequila that has not seen any form of aging, it is the colourless brand. Because Blanco has not been stored in the oak container at all, it has the fresh flavour of the agave and it is preferred by a lot of people.
Reposado tequila is the type that has been stored for a minimum of 60 days in an oak container. The longer it stays the better it becomes in colour and quality. It is always better to store it in smaller containers (like 55 galons) for an effective aging process.
Anejo is the aged tequila that is stored in oak containers for not less than 12 months though a longer period and smaller container improves the quality, smoothness and colour.