Love, dedication, sacrifice and hard work. For the del Razo family of Tlaxcala those are the key requirements for making pulque, a 1,000-year-old Mexican beverage that is seeing a resurgence.
Made from the fermented sap of the maguey or agave plant, pulque is an alcoholic beverage that has the color of milk, a somewhat viscous consistency and a sour, yeast-like taste.
The drink’s history extends far back into the Mesoamerican period when it was considered sacred. After the Spanish Conquest, it became secular and its consumption rose, reaching a peak in the late 19th century.
In the 20th century, however, the drink fell into decline, mostly because of the growth in popularity of beer.
But the demand has come back.
Today, the del Razo family is among several successful producers of the beverage. Located in Nanacamilpa, in the central state of Tlaxcala, the family’s San Isidro ranch has 44 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of three different varieties of maguey plants, kept at different stages of development to maintain production.
The plants must be eight to 12 years old before the sap can be extracted.
The ranch and family business is managed by Rodolfo del Razo and six of his eight daughters and sons and is one of the few companies producing canned pulque. It has expanded its market by exporting its Hacienda 1881 pulque brand to the United States, Europe and South America.
Each month 48,000 cans are sent to the Unites States and 5,000 to Germany. Some is flavored with coconut-pineapple, strawberry, lemon, mango, passion fruit or soursop, but natural, unflavored pulque is that which is most favored in the U.S. and Europe, said del Razo, where it is mixed with other spirits to create cocktails.
But there is a local market as well and it is experiencing a boom: the business sends 3,000 liters of pulque to the Las Duelistas pulquería in Mexico City every third day, and supplies 60% of the more than 50 pulquerías in the country’s capital. The success of these establishments is seen as a resurgence in pulque’s popularity among young, urban consumers.
Rodolfo del Razo, Jr., sees maguey as a “plant of wonders:” in addition to its alcohol content, which measures 5%, it is a nutritional source of sugars, amino acids, proteins, phosphorous, calcium, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.
Maguey plants also produce inulin which, del Razo, Jr, said, is a probiotic that aids in the prevention of colon cancer and fights colitis and constipation, among other benefits.
A benefit for the city of Nanacamilpa and the surrounding region is the tourism generated by the pulque industry.
Nanacamilpa hosts a yearly Pulque Fair, celebrated on March 19, receiving over 15,000 visitors who can taste ore than 60 flavors of pulque curados, or pulque mixed with different ingredients, mostly fruit.
San Isidro is also part of the “pulque route,” which attracts over 70,000 visitors each year between May and July. The route takes them through several pulque-producing haciendas where they can watch the extraction of the maguey sap, known as aguamiel (honeywater), and sample the beverage.
About 3,200 ranches and plantations in 42 of the 60 municipalities in the state of Tlaxcala are dedicated to pulque production.
Source: Schatzye Chiñas/Milenio (sp)