Tequila. Changing perceptions...

Well, it’s been just over three months since we set up Casa Agave and it’s been three eventful  months of promoting tequila, mezcal and other Mexican agave spirits.  We have participated in numerous events including The Manchester Food and Drink Festival, The Manchester Whisky Festival and lots of local artisan markets organised by The Makers Market and The Market Co. Apart from The Manchester Food and Drink Festival which had an event specific to Chilli and Tequila, it was a bit of a surprise for many market goers and festival attendees to find a stall with the sole aim of introducing fine tequilas and to change how the drink is perceived in the UK.  

Overall the response has been positive but sometimes it takes a lot to convince people to even try a little sip of the drink with claims that “tequila sends me crazy”, “one sip will make me ill for weeks!!” Or just simply “Tequila!!? Urgh!” After lots of explanation of how tequila is produced, flavours to detect in different ages of tequila and how to sip  it, we have found that the majority of people who rejected the drink outright, have been pleasantly surprised.   

Another thing we have learnt from this three month experience is the openness of people who have never tried tequila before so they don’t have any previous bad experience of downing a cheap paint stripper shotThey seem to find the drink pleasant and can appreciate the agave flavour as something different that they have never experienced before. Plus there is no reflex ‘down it’ action when the glass reaches their lips, just a little sip at a time, as it should be.  

Of course, there are some people who simply LOVE tequila and it’s great to find out where and how people have discovered the drink. This ranges from people who have gone as tourists to Mexico or the US and found that there are premium agave spirits out there so the desire to seek out the good stuff in the UK is present and people who’ve lived in Mexico (Oaxaca, Jalisco, Mexico City, to name a few places) and really experienced life and culture over there including of course, agave spirits drinking cultureAnother reason tequila becomes the spirit of choice for many is through cocktails! We spoke to people who fell in love with cocktails such as the Margarita and then developedthe taste and a real appreciation for sipping tequilas and other agave spirits. 

It will take time to remove the bad reputation that tequila has in the UK and of course in many bars cheap tequila shot drinks are still prevalent but we have found more and more people are becoming open to the agave flavour and more bars are serving premium quality tequilas. So thanks to everyone who has been open to try our lovely agave spirits this year and learnt all about the artisanal process of Mexican agave spirit making. There will be many more events in 2016! Watch this space!

Tequila & Mezcal Fest, August 2015, Liverpool

Ever heard of the Tequila and Mezcal Fest?  Well, it's a relatively new London based organisation designed to promote tequila, mezcal and other agave based across the UK.  Their first event was held in London November 2014. Eduardo Gomez, founder and director of Tequila and Mezcal explained “We want to educate both the trade and consumers on how to drink, use and enjoy tequila and mezcal. There is a real need for a consistent message.”  Casa Agave totally agrees with this message and we were intrigued to attend one of their events and so on Saturday we went to the first Liverpool Tequila and Mezcal Fest, held at the Liverpool Maritime Museum!

It was a fantastic day of seminars and we had lots of opportunity to try tequila and mezcal from both world famous and lesser known brands.  The day kicked off with a 'Tequila Cocktails Made Easy' seminar with Jesse Estes.  This was particularly enjoyable (not only for the delicious sampling of all five cocktails) but Jesse explained to us some of the possible origins and stories behind the cocktails, basic ingredients used and new twists on classic cocktails. The Casa Agave team loved Cafe Pacifico's twist on the Paloma.  Their 'Nueva Paloma' substitutes the typical mix of fizzy grapefruit for fresh grapefruit juice which makes it incredibly drinkable, particularly in the early afternoon! 

Wandering round the exhibitors' stands was a sensorial joy.  It was great to see and sample the brands on display.  We loved chatting to the guys hosting the variety of mezcals and it was great to hear about differences in agave types, to discuss the rarity of the batches produced and to sample directly the soft and smoky Espadin and the flavour explosion of Tobala mezcals.

Next, more seminars!!  We loved listening to Sophie Decobecq so much from her previous talk at Crazy Pedro's, that we decided to go and listen to her again!  If you ever get chance to see her or taste her product, Calle 23, do!  It's great to listen to somebody talk and demonstrate so enthusiastically about tequila and to convey scientific knowledge about the processes of tequila making to an audience from all walks of life!  Finally, to end the day we listened to the International Tequila Ambassador himself, Tomas Estes!  Not only did we learn about his unique 'Single Estate' brand Tequila Ocho, but we saw how sincere he is in wanting to spread knowledge on agave drinks and educate people on the huge variety of agave types found in Mexico and the unique and labour fuelled processes it takes to produce all kinds of agave spirits.

Thanks to Tequila and Mezcal fest for bringing together all the people so dedicated and passionate about promoting these drinks and the culture of Mexico! See you in London!

An inspiring French tequila maker. Introducing... Sophie Decobecq

Well it's been a very interesting weekend for the Casa Agave Team.

We kicked Friday off with a wonderful talk by Tequila Calle 23's founder, Sophie Decobecq. The session was hosted at Crazy Pedro's in Manchester and was Sophie's penultimate destination as part of her Agave Rides Tour 2015 (a two-person bike ride from Glasgow to Liverpool) to promote her delicious Calle 23 and also spread the word about the process of making agave spirits from the field to the glass.

As well as explaining the fundamentals of tequila making, Sophie also gave us inside knowledge on the choices she made to determine the characters of each age of Calle 23: Blanco, Resposado and Anejo. She conveyed her dedication and enthusiasm for agave spirits as she explained to us the lengthy time it takes to grow a crop of Tequilana Weber blue variety for optimum conditions to make tequila, her favoured fermentation method where she actually harvests the yeast from the fields and cultivates in a Petri dish and how each step of the tequila making process is tested and highly monitored by herself. Sophie emphasised that she always keeps in mind what her own personal preferences are in terms of flavour so she ensures this is never compromised. This is one reason why leaves her Reposado and Anejo tequilas to age for longer than the average and stated minimum lengths of time. Her Calle 23 Reposado is aged for an impressive 8 months (tequila regulations determine that Reposado needs to be aged for 2 months minimum) and her Anejo is aged for 18 months on average making it deliciously soft and palatable.

When you taste Sophie's Calle 23 tequila range, you can really sense the care and attention that has gone into making each of these products: from the sweet after taste of the agave noted Blanco, her 'middle child' Reposado to the unique Anejo in which she retains her own personal preference to keep a definite agave character rather than the typical woody undertones from barrel charring which can quite often be the norm in the ageing process. Sophie certainly has her own individual mark on these products.

Thank you for sharing Calle 23 and spreading the agave word in such a novel way Sophie!   

Mexico adventures, tequila travels, the beginning...

Christian and I were discussing 'the beginning' the other day and it's difficult to pin point why, when and how this exactly came about.  The things we love to do are travel, explore, drink and ... chat!  We've had a great few years of travelling back and forth between Mexico and UK and we hope for many more.  We've been so lucky to meet some amazing people along the way, many of whom have shared some interesting stories with us (and inspired us to link these two countries.)

Now, Tequila!  Maybe me being born and raised in UK, could possibly be the reason why my early tequila memories are quite awful to be frank!  Nothing but a harsh, cheap drink to down (on someone else's suggestion of course) until your body cannot tolerate it anymore.  Then what happens?  I visit Mexico for the first time with Christian and have the drink offered to me at warm and welcoming family gatherings and fiestas:  My whole experience and liking for it changes!  I start to love tequila!  We don't just down the drink over here, we sip and and savour the flavour whilst eating snacks and chatting; we drink it slowly, after it's been chilled in the freezer before eating a meal; we drink it at the end of a heavy meal to help us digest and relax even more,  we add it to some amazing chilli flavoured, vivid coloured Vampiro cocktails!  The drink I was being offered was full of flavour, sometimes gentle and sometimes with a kick, very warming and most importantly it deserved to be savoured.

Each time me and Christian visit Mexico we explore and learn even more about various regions and their unique cultures, we try to mix and mingle with people and of course, we become more interested in drinking traditions and types of beverages particular to each region.  From tequila we began to drink mezcal, which brings about a whole other world of flavours (too many to write about now!).  We've driven by beautiful, hilly fields of agave (the plant which gives tequila and many other Mexican drinks their existence!), we've seen the length of time and the patience needed for the processes involved in producing such drinks, we've tasted the raw materials and dug our hands in the earth!  And... finally, we start to meet the field workers, distillers, sellers, advocates of (and those against) tequila.

Back tracking a little...  Funnily enough, the tequila thing may have sprung from a night drinking whisky!  One night in a little hotel bar on the Isle of Aran, Scotland, Christian and I were chatting to the barman and began to sample some whisky from the local distillery.   We tasted and were talked through some of the most amazing flavours and had the same feeling of discovery we felt about tequilas in Mexico.  So, in the same way the friendly Aran barman led us through the flavours of the Scottish island, we would also like to share with you, the agave flavours of Mexico!