A Growing Movement Predicts that the Next Generation of Tequila will Come from an Unlikely Source – Bats
The Bat Friendly Tequila and Mezcal project has brought together scientists, producers, and consumers to open the gates for the cross pollination of agave plants by bats.
This age-old technique is intended not only to encourage sustainability, but to unlock the next generation of yet-unknown flavors in the tequila industry.
Dr. Roberto Medellin, a Mexican Ecologist widely known as the “Bat Man of Mexico”, has used Bat Friendly as a platform to explain what tequila producers can gain by reincorporating bats into the agave growing process.
“For 12 million years, bats and agave have been linked. But now, they are stuck,” says Medellin.
What Do Bats Add to Tequila?
In a typical agave field, growers will prevent their agave plants from flowering in order to preserve the coveted sugar within the agave head – sugar which is crucial for the production of alcohols like tequila and mezcal.
Since those flowers would otherwise help the plants reproduce, growers instead use the shoots beneath the parent plant to grow future crops.
In the process, each subsequent agave plant is genetically identical. What’s more, the lack of flowers prevents bats from cross pollinating the plants and creating new breeds of agave.
To encourage a new generation of undiscovered agave, the Bat Friendly project stamps a shiny label on the bottles of producers who encourage bat cross pollination. Dr Medellin says that the certification for Bat Friendly Tequila and Mezcal is simple.
“All they need to do is to allow only 5% of their agave plants to flower, let the bats come and pollinate, and use the resulting seeds to replant their fields.”
Bat Friendly Producers
Producers are certainly playing the long game – experts say it may take 80 to 100 years for these new breeds of agave to arise. Still, this hasn’t stopped smaller producers from hedging their bets.
Don Mateo de la Sierra, a Michoacán based mezcal producer renowned for the dark, earthy flavors produced from their traditional process of roasting agave in volcanic stone, have been a continued partner with Bat Friendly since 2016.
Though this trend has been spearheaded by artisanal producers, it appears that the tequila industry as a whole might be taking notice.
Patrón recently commissioned a study from Mexico’s National Center of Genetic Resources, hoping to analyze blue agave genetics and establish a long-term path for the creation of new agave breeds.
Soon enough, bats may very well be the secret behind the world’s biggest tequila producers’ new, cutting edge products.
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