Mez­cal

Dis­cover a lit­tle more about one of the old­est dis­til­la­tions meth­ods in the world, the cul­ture and what makes this spirit dif­fer­ent to te­quila

The Playa Times Riviera Maya's English Newspaper - - Tpt Foodies - BY RAMIRO VÁZQUEZ

Since an­cient times, agaves have been used for mul­ti­ple pur­poses. They pro­vided honey wa­ter that al­lowed long mi­gra­tions through the desert; honey, vine­gar and al­co­holic bev­er­ages were ob­tained from it; their cooked hearts make for a de­li­cious meal; they are used as medicine, the spines as sur­gi­cal and rit­ual in­stru­ments; the fibers for cloth­ing, the leaves for roof­ing, the quiote (stalk) for mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, tools and as build­ing ma­te­rial.

Just like corn, agaves pro­vided re­sources for dif­fer­ent no­madic tribes which set­tled as com­mu­ni­ties and then de­vel­oped com­plex civ­i­lized so­ci­eties. Re­cent dis­cov­er­ies in Tlax­cala, in the Ca­caxtla ru­ins, showed that mez­cal was pro­duced around the year 400 B.C.; this makes Mez­cal one of the most an­cient dis­til­la­tion meth­ods in the world. In those days, Mez­cal was dis­tilled in clay pots, just like it is still done nowa­days.

Mez­cal (from Nahu­atl for “cooked agave”) was pro­duced in small batches close to the cer­e­mo­nial cen­ters for elite rit­u­als. All writ­ten ev­i­dence about it was burnt by Span­ish oc­cu­pa­tion army and its pro­duc­tion was banned to fa­vor im­ported wine.

Mez­cal was reborn dur­ing the 20th cen­tury as te­quila but mez­cal is pro­duced with only one type of agave from one small re­gion. But now mez­cal is re­claim­ing its throne as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive spirit of Mex­i­can cul­ture.

Te­quila, on the other hand, is hand­made in ten states, in small batches, with al­most 40 dif­fer­ent types of agaves. Just like wine, te­quila rep­re­sents its ter­ri­tory and va­ri­ety, but it also rep­re­sents its com­mu­nity and cul­ture.

Te­qui­leros are now loot­ing agave fields in Oax­aca, buy­ing agave for their tequi­las, but also cut­ting im­ma­ture, new­born, wild agaves at an im­pres­sive rate, elim­i­nat­ing the agaves’ ma­trix.

We are fight­ing along­side these com­mu­ni­ties to avoid the plant’s ex­tinc­tion, pre­serv­ing this hand­crafted elixir and look­ing for peo­ple who ap­pre­ci­ate this cul­ture and history.

¡Salud!

Ramiro Vázquez is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Mez­cales de Lulá.

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