Cupreata Agave

Cupreata Agave

Written By Gerry Martinez

Cupreata agave, often referred to as “Papalote” in certain regions, is a species of agave that plays a significant role in the artisanal production of mezcal, particularly in the mountainous and forested areas of Mexico. This type of agave is distinguished by its broad, green leaves and its adaptability to grow in both tropical and subtropical climates, thriving at altitudes that range from 1,200 to 1,800 meters above sea level. It is predominantly found in the states of Guerrero and Michoacán, although it can also be found in parts of Oaxaca and Morelos.

Cupreata agave has a longer maturation period compared to some other agave species used for mezcal production, typically taking anywhere from 8 to 13 years to reach full maturity. This extended growth period allows the agave to develop a rich complexity of flavors, contributing to the distinct taste profile of the mezcal produced from it.

The process of distilling mezcal from Cupreata agave begins with the harvesting of the mature plants, where the leaves are trimmed away to extract the “piña” or heart of the agave. These piñas are then traditionally cooked in a conical pit oven lined with stones that have been heated by a wood fire. This cooking process, which can last several days, is crucial for converting the agave’s complex sugars into fermentable forms.

After cooking, the piñas are crushed to extract the agave juice. This can be done mechanically or through a more traditional method using a stone wheel called a “tahona,” which is often pulled by donkeys or horses. The extracted juice, along with the agave fibers, is then fermented in open-air vats, allowing natural yeasts to initiate the fermentation process.

Following fermentation, the liquid is distilled in copper or clay pot stills. This distillation process is generally done twice to refine the mezcal and achieve the desired alcohol content. Artisanal mezcal producers, who often follow traditional methods passed down through generations, carefully monitor this process to ensure the final product retains the unique characteristics imparted by the Cupreata agave.

Mezcal made from Cupreata agave is highly valued for its distinctive flavor profile, which can include floral, fruity, and earthy notes, with a smooth finish. Its production is not only a testament to the craftsmanship of mezcaleros but also to the rich biodiversity of Mexico’s agave species. By choosing mezcal made from Cupreata agave, enthusiasts are supporting a tradition that embraces sustainability, biodiversity, and the deep cultural heritage of mezcal production.