How Tequila is Made.
Tequila is made through time patience and dedication. The most common and basic process includes the following steps.
The whole Tequila process starts when small Agaves (hijuelos) are planted and grown for several years, usually between 5 and 12 years. During this time, to make sure that the plants grows healthy; they are cared for, weeded, pruned, and watched for pests. Agaves are not watered since they benefit efficiently from the rain 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 a day.
The ‘piñas' or Agave heads are placed ion masonry ovens or steel containers (autoclaves) where the stream 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's done in autoclaves.
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 diffusers.
Immediately after this, the category of the Tequila is determined by defining the percentage of Agave sugars and or other natural sugars to be used.
If all the juices to be used are from the Agave, then the first category is true: 100% Agave Tequila.
The yeast transforms the sugars turning them into alcohol. The type of yeast used and the nutrients added 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 ‘rectification' (the second distillation) which rises it's alcohol level. The result is a clear colorless liquid, already considered Tequila.
Tequila can be stored in white oak barrels or vats also called ‘pipones' where it acquires elements from the wood. The treatment through which these containers are 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 those of most spirit drinks around the world and it is then put in bottles that feature a great assortment of sizes, shapes and designs.