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March 16th 2009
Published: March 19th 2009
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Not only is Tequila a well known drink, it is a small city in Jalisco, México, and yes, the birthplace of the drink.

This morning, I walked (ran when it was getting late) a few miles looking for the corner to catch a bus to tour some tequila distilleries and to see the town of Tequila. After having to ask for directions (it turned out the that there had a lot of construction going on so the streets had been closed off nearby), I made it just in time and got the last seat. Think of it as little like a day tour in Napa Valley, only you're in México.

There is a famous tequila train tour that leaves from Guadalajara too, but I took a bus tour - it is much less expensive ($260 pesos all inclusive except for lunch) and nice because you get to see a smaller local distillery too. From Guadalajara we drove along the international highway, watching beautiful fields of blue agave out the window. The first stop was a Distillery called Tres Mujeres (3 women). It is a small, family operated place that does all of their own agave growing naturally. We went out into the fields with their head jimador (agave harvester) and got to see how the blue agave is cut and what is looks and tastes like raw. The jimador uses a pole with a large round knife to cut off the leaves and split the agave. Inside, it is white, fibrous, and bland. Someone must have been really hungry to try cooking this almost wood-like stuff! But they discovered an amazing trick! The agave is steamed for almost 2 days and, and it turns orange, soft, and very sweet. The agave is then juiced - put through a shredding and mashing machine, and the juice collected and concentrated until it has the correct amount of sugars. Then it is fermented with yeast, double distilled, watered down, and aged. We went inside for a tasting. They had a nice, clean, facility full of stainless steel fermentation tanks. In the center of the tiled floor the set up two tables with fruits, steamed agave, and all of their differently aged tequilas to try, as well as chairs to sit in. I tried a lot of different tequilas yesterday at the festival and had seen this company's booth full of people and didn't stop. I'm glad I tried it today - it was quite good! I really saw the differences in the smoothness between the young tequilas and the ones that had been aged in oak. Out of curiosity I also tried the undiluted young tequila here - it wasn't bad, as I expected it to be. This distillery was my favorite part of the tour.

As the bus got closer to the town of Tequila I could see the volcano (by the same name) and all of the agave plants sprawling the countryside. It was beautiful. We got to the town drove through to reach Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo World). Mundo Cuervo is like tequila disneyland - it is beautiful to see, but very touristy! We saw a little film about the history of the Cuervo family, then were taken to tour the factory (and were not supposed to take photos). The operation was enormous compared to that of the previous distillery. It was interesting to see, and the setting really was pretty.

We had some time between the tour and the time the bus left, so I headed across the street into the town and saw the church, the marketplace, the main streets, and ducked into a little shop selling dried beans, dried chilies, dried fruits, and local cheese, where I tried some cactus candies and bought a piece of cheese.

I caught the bus again and we headed out to a restaurant built up higher in the hills to eat with a nice view of the sea of agave plants below us. The place sold a lot of fish, and it looked good, but I opted for the other specialty dish - goat stew. I ate lunch with a group of Chinese-Americans from San Francisco, one of whom was exporting tequila to China.

Next, the bus took us to a little roadside gift shop to taste the sweeter liquors of México. There were 3 kinds of rompope, a version of amaretto, and a coffee liquor. The bus ride back was full of more nice views of the hills, and the driver was nice enough to drop me off near where I was staying on his way downtown. I headed back to the hostel to read in a hammock before the sun set.

That evening I went with some people from the hostel to a favorite local taco place a few blocks away. I ordered something with a meat part that I had never seen before, and a tongue quesadilla (I expected them to chop of the tongue at least, but it was one big slice through). Everything was yummy. We went back to the hostel and I spent some time talking to a woman who had just arrived from Colombia for an exchange from her medical school. I told her all about the Mexican foods I knew - she was shocked to hear about some of them, like the corn fungus, huitlacoche. She told me about lots of Colombian foods too, especially breads and pastries. I joined two other Colombians, in town for a Colombian film festival, and headed out to a cafe for live salsa music in a plaza, in front of what used to be a convent. Someone from the band must have been visiting from Colombia that night, and they played a lot of Colombian songs (my friends were quite happy about this)! We talked and danced, then headed back to the hostel to talk some more. We stayed up most of the night!


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