What is Tepache? The Centuries-Old Pineapple Kombucha Fusion
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What is Tepache? The Pineapple-Kombucha Crossover Finding its Boozy Footing in the US

Exploring tepache, a sacred drink of the Mayans. (Photo: De La Calle!)

The long-trending popularity of kombucha has thrust a new wave of probiotic-rich fermented drinks into the spotlight. Alternatives like kefir, jun tea and kvass are suddenly having a moment — as is a delicious centuries-old pineapple beverage.

Originally conceived as a fermented corn drink by the Nahua people of central Mexico, tepache has evolved over the years into a concoction made with pineapple rinds, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Today, the mouth-tinglingly sweet recipe is sold by street vendors throughout Mexico and the American Southwest.

The drink’s name has been credited variously to the Nahuatl word tepatl (“corn drink”) and the Opata phrase tepatzi (“place of beautiful women”). No matter how you spin in, tepache tastes distinctly bright, spiced and fruity, a breath of fresh air in the oftentimes astringent world of fermented beverages.

Crucially, tepache can be served in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic forms. After two days of fermentation, the resulting drink hovers around a slim 1-2% ABV. At restaurants and food stands, you’ll often find tepache cut with a healthy splash of beer, upping its hoppy profile to new heights.

Amidst the language of sustainably produced and “upcycled” products, tepache has now found its way into the mainstream.

Brands like De La Calle!, Holy Tepache and Big Easy Tepache have brought non-alcoholic renditions to stores nationwide, hitting the market with a wide variety of regionally-inspired flavors like prickly pear, hibiscus, tamarind, orange turmeric, chamoy and more.


(Photo: Tepache Sazón)

In June, Tepache Sazón upped the ante to become the first commercially available alcoholic tepache brand in the US. Brewed at 7% ABV in San Pancho, Mexico, the brand says that its bottled “Piña y Canela” beverage tastes just as good solo as it does mixed up in a mezcal cocktail.

“We’re in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by flora and fauna and traditional Mexican culture. It was important for us to make a delicious product, but also a natural one at every step that really pays homage to the traditions and flavors of this diverse and special place,” said Sebastian Medina, Senior Tepachero at Tepache Sazón.

Managing Director Rio Chenery adds, “It’s really the ‘newest’ old Mexican beverage, and we’re really excited to showcase these traditions and flavors to a new generation of American consumers.”

Just a few years ago, pitching consumers on a fermented drink made with pineapple rinds may have sounded like a tall task.

But the landscape has changed. Whether you’re sipping it at the juice bar or the dive bar, tepache now has the makings of a bonafide hit ripe for the health-conscious crowd, craft cocktail crowd and IPA crowd alike. We’re eager to see what comes next.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.