Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History – Paperback, March 1, 2004

Updated: May 8, 2018

By Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata and Gary Paul Nabhan

Amazon today’s tequila industry requires a knowledge of its history. This book spends the majority of its pages reviewing the history of agave harvesting and how Tequila has evolved to the blue agave mono-culture it is today. For an English speaker, the early chapters are heavy going as the mixture of scientific botanical plant names and Spanish terms demand focus. Also, at times it reads a little like a scientific paper as there are many citations and sources referenced.

The authors are obviously not comfortable with how the industry has evolved and they have deep concerns about the loss of many of the traditional agave growing and harvesting practices. The book was written in 2004 and their concerns seem justified based on harvesting issues in recent years.

As stated, this book is very botanical and not very political. There’s not much discussion of how NOMs were originated or controversy’s surrounding them. Nor any real insights or discussion of production processes. If you want to understand the origins of mescal from tequila from an agricultural perspective, then this is a great read.

This is the first book I have read on my tequila discovery journey and it got me to thinking if I should really be discovering the broader field of mezcal. The agave mono-culture seems so limiting, boring and it seems to be a focus that’s not conducive to the long-term success of the industry. It’s not easy to develop a broad expertise in juice of the agave so I think I’ll stick to mescal of tequila for now, but I’m sure there will be some non-tequila mescal discovery along the way.

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