CRAFTING QUALITY TEQUILA

An Honored Mexican Tradition

Unlike most boys who grow up in Jalisco, Mexico, Miguel had no desire to move to a big city. He was proud of the simple life his father  had made for his family harvesting agave and was eager to learn the age old craft that had been passed down  from generation to generation.

Jimador kid

The land they harvested that day was a large volcano, which had been dormant for hundreds of thousands of years. The volcanic earth created the most ideal and nutrient rich area to grow agave

 After preparing their donkeys and provisions for the day, the father and son began their trek towards the hillside, coas in hand. The coa is the only tool an experienced Jimador needs to harvest an agave plant. 

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Looking down at the row of small agaves in front of them, the father said, “These are not ready. These agave are only about six years old. A ripe agave is going to be eight to twelve years old.” 

“These are the agave that we will be harvesting today,” the father said, pointing to another row 20 yards infront of them. He picked up his coa, placing his right hand at the end of its handle and his left about halfway down the shaft. In a rhythmic motion, he began slashing at the large, pointy leaves on one side of the agave. “Be careful,” he warned. “One slip of the coa and you could easily cut your leg.”

After he finished trimming the leaves from each side of the plant, the pina, the heart of the agave, was revealed

Agave

Next, without hesitation, he took the coa and thrust the blade into the center of the agave’s pina, using his foot like a shovel to push the coa further into the meat of the plant. After doing this three times, he was able to pry the pina open and split it in half.

agave1

“There are two reasons why we split the pina in half,” he began to explain. “First a fully matured agave pina can weigh up to a hundred and fifty pounds, and unless you want to have back issues at a very young age you are going to want to split the pina in order to carry it. Secondly, we need to remove the cogollo.” 

The son watched as his father bent over and removed a small white cylindrical appendage from the center of the spilt pina.“If this was left in during the roasting and fermentation process it would give the tequila an unpleasant flavor and texture.” After removing the cogolla, they loaded the heavy agave halves into baskets that were situated on the backs of donkeys. When a donkey's baskets were full, the father sent the animal down the hill with a load. 

agave halves

Next, the agave were placed in a truck to be transported, along with other agaves that had been harvested by nearby jimadors. The father and son continued to harvest agave on the hillside that day together, and for every one agave that the boy harvested, the father had two. By the time the sun began to set, the father and son had harvested over four tons of agave. Not bad for a young jimador’s first day.

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