According to myth, the Aztec goddess Mayahuel was inspired to create tequila after watching a mouse become inebriated after consuming agave. By crafting the spirit, Mayahuel became known as the goddess of agave. However, this bit Clase Azul of tequila trivia ignores Mayahuel’s most prominent role in Aztec mythology; Mayahuel was also known as the goddess of fertility. Unfortunately, ignoring the partnership between tequila and fertility seems to be an ongoing problem.
The devastating fungus called fusarium, which swept through Jalisco nearly a decade ago damaging almost one third of agave plants at a time when demand for tequila was reaching unprecedented levels, remains an enormous threat to the industry. The crisis caused a shift in how tequila was produced. The financial strain made it difficult for independent distillers to continue to make tequila; instead, they were forced to sell their property to major enterprises which regularly focused on quantity over quality. Recognizing increased demand for tequila in the course of shortages of blue agave, which can take up to 12 years to fully mature, many companies began purchasing other styles of magueys, wild varieties of agave that grow in places such as Guerrero. The result was a decrease in biodiversity; whereby, these maguey plants became vulnerable by the consumption of the industry and shoot development became more widespread. Additionally, the practice of growing agave from locations, not fertilization, created circumstances that increased agave’s vulnerability to fusarium.
These circumstances can be seen on the shelves of your local liquor store. The finest tequilas are produced from 100% blue agave; however, most tequilas are “mixto”, meaning they may be made from only 51% agave. These tequilas frequently import other magueys to supplement blue agave, creating cheaper tequilas which are most cost effective for consumers and producers. Even the some esteemed of tequilas, such as Jimador, have made the switch from 100% agave. While the number of available 100% agave brands has exploded and mixto tequila brands have slightly decreased, the amount of mixto being produced by these companies is climbing every year. Sadly, the successful mixto market has increased the stress on agave production and created circumstances in which a repeat of the infamous deficiency is very possible.
Fortunately, the increased environmental consciousness in which 65 percent of Americans report trying at least one organic product and 10 percent consume organics weekly has created a demand for organic products in unexpected industries. Recently, vodkas, such as Pillow One and Liquid Ice, have emerged to meet this demand, yet the amount of organic tequilas remains extremely limited. Nevertheless, alternatives do exist. 4 Copas produces a 100% blanco, reposado, and anejo tequila which is completely organic. Distirbution of this tequila is most widespread in California, but recent success at international challenges may encourage increased distribution.
If 4 Copas is not an option, minimally, consumers should try to purchase 100% agave tequilas over mixtos. These tequilas still commonly come from locations, but purchasing these productss reduces dangers to biodiversity from the practice of importing wild maguey plants. Additionally, these tequilas just taste better! Of these brands, Sauza and Herradura are investigating ways to turn waste elements from production into bioplastics and alternative energy sources.
The connection between Mayahuel’s role as goddess of agave and fertility may seem to be an unusual relationship. However, the need to consider the role of biodiversity and organic production in the tequila industry cannot be underestimated. Advocating change for a better product and healthier environment must start out with consumers. The world of beverage enthusiasts mindful how to choose tequila for quality, but the everyday consumer generally makes a decision a popular or cheaper brand. Educating these individuals is the responsibility of those who are aware of these differences. By taking any opportunity to do so through blogging or by taking additional time to elucidate products to your customers at the bar, sociable interaction can help to improve what is quickly becoming the world’s next fine spirit.