1. Agave, the plant that is used to make tequila, takes about a decade to reach peak ripeness.
The process is pretty cool: The leaves are cut off, leaving only the giant agave heads, which are baked and shredded. Water pressure extracts the plant’s honeys and pulp. The pulp is thrown away and the sweet juices whisked away for fermentation.
2. Bats help pollinate agave!
3. It gives you a terrible hangover because of loose government regulations.
Our regulations. Mexican law is strict: Tequila must be made with 100% agave (Weber blue, specifically) from Jalisco. But a 2006 agreement, in an attempt to protect U.S. bottling-plant investments, basically said those standards don’t apply to us.
The U.S. allows it to be 49% other liquids and still be called tequila.
4. Tequila can form diamonds.
Scientists in Mexico were messing around with organic solutions to try and make diamonds and noticed that the ideal compound (40% ethanol, 60% water) was similar to tequila. So they fired 80-proof tequila vapor over a balmy 1400ºF and voilà! A million f*cking diamonds! The crystals formed an ultrathin film, and the high temperature removed all of their impurities.
Well, sort of. The process is expensive, and while the synthetic diamonds are super durable and heat resistant and can be used commercially to coat cutting tools, their usage is being researched. But still: diamonds!
5. It has over 60 scent compounds.
The five most powerful compounds smell like chocolate (isovaleraldehyde), whiskey (isoamyl alcohol), beer (β-damascenone), florals (2-phenylethanol), and vanilla (vanillin).
6. Agave can help build better bones.
Forget milk (sorry, cookies). An ingredient in agave might help fight osteoporosis. Fructans are fructoses — the sugar found in honey and fruits — linked together in long, branched chains.
While they change into alcohol when agave is made into tequila, scientists found that supplementing a diet with agave fructans can help boost the body’s absorption of calcium and magnesium, which are important for bone growth.
7. It could become a new possible sweetener…
OK, so agavins — a natural form of sugar found in agave — also aren’t technically in tequila because they are converted to ethanol to make it. But because they’re indigestible and can act as a dietary fiber, they can help reduce glucose levels and increase insulin, making them a possible sweetener for diabetics, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical society.
Just don’t confuse the agave sweeteners you find at the supermarket for agavins: The chemical makeup is different!
8. …and can keep you fuller, longer.
Fructans also stimulate incretins, the gastrointestinal hormones that boost insulin — and one of those incretins is a good satiety enhancer, meaning you can feel fuller on less food.
9. Molecular fingerprinting can identify high-quality tequila.
This machine may look boring, but it stands between you and good tequila. Knockoffs are as big a problem in the alcohol industry as any other, but researchers can help identify real 100% agave tequila from fraudulent booze using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.
The molecular fingerprinting takes just two minutes and can identify high-quality tequila’s chemical profile. Considering tequila is estimated to be a billion-dollar industry, advancements in chemistry like this can help monitor authenticity.
10. It has the potential to help fuel the world.
Agave also has potential as a bioenergy crop. Biofuels are made from living organisms and can consume a lot of energy to process, but a review of 14 studies showed two agave species’ output surpassed the yields of other biofuel materials.
Plus, it can withstand stressful climate changes and be harvested as a co-product of tequila without any extra land demands — especially in the tropics and subtropics, where areas can be too parched or soil too degraded to support food crops.