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It’s a long time now since my father passed away, and I still miss having him here to chat things through with.  Of course, I do still remember some of the gems of advice he gave me.  One was to work hard so as to be financially independent, never reliant on a man; another was never to drink tequila!

Well, I haven’t heeded the second one.  But in the spirit of hard work, I have researched the topic thoroughly.

Tequila may only be made from the Tequilana Weber Blue Agave plant.


Blue agave, Kew Gardens, London

The blue agave is native to Jalisco in Mexico. It thrives in rich and sandy soils, often at altitudes of more than 1,500 metres. These large succulents have spiky fleshy leaves, that can reach over 2 metres in height, sprouting a stalk (quiote) topped with yellow flowers when about five years old that can grow an additional 5 metres.  The flowers are pollinated by a native bat, producing several thousand seeds per plant, and the parent plant then dies. The stalks on commercial plants are removed when about a year old to allow the heart to grow larger and the shoots are planted to produce baby plants.

Mexico strictly controls all processes and activities related to the supply and production of agave and tequila, including production, bottling, marketing, information, and business practices tequila, through a  Norma Oficial Mexicana, NOM-006-SCFI-{date}. Look out for the NOM number on the label, along with the words “100% agave”.  The 100% is important for taste, but could also be important the morning after. Non-pure tequilas  contain as much as 49% mixtos, usually sugar-based alcohols, so when you drink it you are already mixing your drinks and experts say this is what gives you a headache.


The Tequila Regulation Council recognizes five types of tequila: Colorless blancos and platas (silvers) are typically right out of the distiller (blancos are higher proof); reposados must age at least two months; añejos must age over one year. A newer category, extra-añejo, ages even longer.

Tequila is produced by removing the heart (piña) of the plant in its twelfth year. These piñas can weigh as much as 90 kg. This heart is stripped of its leaves and heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled.

To finish, a very unusual fact. In 2009, Mexican scientists discovered a method to produce tiny, nanometer-sized synthetic diamonds from 80-proof tequila, which has the optimal range of water to ethanol for producing synthetic diamonds. This process involves heating the tequila to over 800°C at which point the now separated carbon molecules are settled upon steel or silicon trays to form a thin layer. Hard and heat resistant, and cheap to produce, but far too small for jewels, the diamond films could have several commercial applications, such as for cutting tools and optical electronic devices.

Linked to Thursday Special Challenge.

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