A wonderful day which began with an early wake up call and short van ride to the local Teotitlan weaving collective located about 30 mins outside of town.
This collective still spins thread from wool, uses plant, mineral and animal dyes as well as huge hand powered floor looms to weave carpets, runners, shawls, pillow covers and many other items. The results are stunning, some carpets taking months to complete. We were shown the entire process, from carding and spinning wool, to dye making and to weaving the finished product. An amazing morning which passed far too quickly.
Our next stop was a Mezcal factory. Mezcal – like Tequila – is made from the Agave plant which takes up to 20 years to mature. So in essence Agave farmers are planting now for their children to harvest. There are a number of different types of Agave (plus domestic types and wild types) – each producing a different taste. Once the plant is mature it is processed in a manner unchanged over the centuries. A pit about 6 feet across and three feet deep is dug and a fire with mesquite wood is built in the pit. Once it is dying down lava rocks are put on top of the embers, the hot lava rock is in turn covered by wet vegetation. The agave is then put on top of the wet vegetation, covered by more agave leaves and then dirt is piled on top. Reminded me of a Hawaiian pig roast. The agave steams in the pit for 8-12 days and then is removed.
Once removed from the pit the origin of the mescal smokey taste is obvious. The next part of the process is to shred and pound the agave to a pulp, done by a large round stone pulled by a small horse. The resulting pulp then goes to the fermentation and distillation vats resulting in a 38-45 proof liquor which is a speciality of the valley.
Our tour was completed by a mezcal tasting session which became quite lengthy :-). For those whom are interested a few things are needed to drink mezcal. Wedges of limes or oranges (the Oaxacan oranges are incredible like nothing I have ever tasted), Chili powder and grasshoppers fried and seasoned with salt, Chili and lime, the equivalent of peanuts at home. After a mescal shot a chunk of citrus is dipped in Chili powder and eaten, followed by a few grasshoppers which were surprising good 🙂 Something new for me…..
An excellent lunch followed the mezcal session – my empanadas stuffed with squash blossoms and local cheese with a spicy quacamole on the side was excellent.
A siesta back at the hotel was followed by another walk into town which went past the main Cathedral and through Zocalo square.
An amazing 7 tiered alter had appeared in the square across from the cathedral.
Our route took us through the central food market and then to another square by a yet another cathedral with excellent sorbets and ice cream.
My passion fruit, tamarind sorbet was outstanding and a memorable end to a perfect day. Our walk home was marked by the increased number of painted faces for the Day of the Dead, chrysanthemum garlands in the street and a continuously building energy in the air around us. It is going to be a fun few days 🙂