Ever wonder where Tequila is from? It’s from a town 40 miles from Guadalajara. Coincidentally, this town itself is called Tequila. Any alcohol that comes from this place has the typical name some of us may associate with wild parties, old student days, and puking over a toilet. Any alcohol that is similar but does not come from here cannot be called Tequila (hence so many different other types, such as Patron).
Tequila is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it attracts many tourists each year. This was indeed the only spot where I ran across fellow Germans and some Argentinian, French, and Dutch people. My friend and I took a bus from a hotel (after waiting 45 minutes, once again, punctuality is not seen as too important in Mexico). While on the bus, our tour guide mainly spoke Spanish, explaining a bit of the landscape and where we were going. She also spoke English after her Spanish introduction, but it was disguised in such a thick accent, I was glad I was able to understand a few of her Spanish words rather than being frustrated with her foreign language skills.
Our first stop was an agave field. A gorgeous view came into sight as soon as the bus pulled up. Of course this part of Mexico is breathtaking no matter what, but nothing tops the blue plants surrounded by distant mountains and sugary white clouds in the sky. While taking in this panorama, we were introduced to el jimador Ismael. A jimador is a farmer that specializes in choosing and cultivating the blue agave plant. He showed us how to correctly slice these agave plants open. Of course it looked a thousand times more professional the way he did it with his sombrero covering his head and ax swinging over his body. After chopping up one plant, we were able to pose with his ax and the agave plant for a great picture. Mine looked goofy, but my friend posed well (she’s had practice, since she regularly brings tourists to this area). Ismael also made sure to give us a tiny bit of one of the richest body creams I’ve experienced. Made from the agave plant, it took quite a while to soak into our skins. I guess if you are out in the fields like that all day long, you need some extra precautions taken for skin care.
Our second stop was Tequila, the town itself. Here we were given an hour time to try our first margarita for the day. Our total bus tour price was 300 pesos ($23), this included a few coupons. One was for the margarita; another was a discount for our food. While trying our first drink, we met a nice girl from Monterrey, who was traveling by herself. We kept her company for the rest of the day, as we all know how awkward it can be to travel alone sometimes.
At first we were shown a short movie about our whereabouts and then we took the factory tour itself. Tours were divided among Spanish and English speakers (and I am glad they were, this time no funny accents, either). A nice guide told us all about the history of Tequila. He then gave us a juicy slice of the agave plant, wrenched in sugar. It smelled awful but tasted great. Tequila is made from agave so that was one of the first steps of fermentation. After trying a Tequila that had 55 percent of alcohol (which really tasted yucky, no one wanted to have another shot glass after their first one), we were then led into the final hall. Here we were able to see what the different types of Tequilas looked like: The silver one (also called blanco as in “white”) takes the least amount of time and is ready in less than 2 months of aging. The golden one takes anywhere from 2 months to 1 year. And the exquisite brown Tequila has the longest aging process, as it takes 1 to 3 years to ripen.
The entire tour took perhaps an hour. Unfortunately no pictures allowed, so no image insights here.
However, it was interesting to take in the factory and work process. Our tour guide also pointed out that most people drink Tequila wrong: Only a few types are meant for mixing and only a few are designated to drink neat. Which one, depends on the amount of alcohol volume in it.
After the tour we were able to get two tequilas for free in addition to another margarita. As you can tell, a lot of drinking was going on that day. Around 2 PM we got hungry and decided to get our coupon’s worth in a nearby restaurant. While sitting down, a show started just next to us. I guess we were at the right place to the right time. First, the dancers dressed up like Native Mexicans and performed an Indian tribe dance. Then a father and son showed a traditional cockfight. No bloody roosters, here, luckily. The same performer also swung his lasso around. Finally the show ended in a nice flamenco dance.
Tequila was among one of the most fun adventures I had, albeit pretty touristy, I have to admit. Now every time someone tries to sell me crappy Tequila at a bar, I have to cringe and think back at the time I was in the city of cities (at least in this aspect). If you are in the area, it is certainly a must see. I also heard that the 1500-pesos-train ride ($113) is probably not worth it and that drinks are watered down to the point they only contain a few percent of alcohol. The bus tour, on the contrary, was pretty legit and we spent a decent amount of time in the town itself.