Mexico, Mezcal, Musica and More Tacos….an Australian happily lost in a faraway land.
So here I am. An Australian living in Mexico.
What was once vegemite for breakfast is now eggs and chilli. Loooots of chilli. Eating, daydreaming of mezcal.
The silent nights of Melbourne custom made for sleeping have been traded for the constant barking of dogs. Roosters crowing (why do they crow ALL night here?). Musica….loud, loud Mexican musica, it’s a constant but seems particularly popular at 2am on a Tuesday morning! Generally accompanied by some delightful crooning by a group of Mexican senoritas and senoras.
Then there are the tacos….tacos are like a reason to drink….there is one for every occasion. Breakfast tacos, morning tea tacos, lunch tacos, afternoon tacos, dinner tacos, pre-drinking tacos, drink accompanying tacos, post-drinking tacos, pre-sleeping tacos. Tacos are good.
And then, there is mezcal. I knew of mezcal from the other side of the world, but I knew little. What a treat I was in for…..
Where have you been all my life?
I had heard about you before, even encountered you a couple of times. But, I never knew you were so complicated. Sometimes sultry and smoky. Mysterious….dangerous. Sometimes almost too much too handle. Other times much more light hearted and playful. Always strong, but sometimes ferocious. You made my lips tingle and a warm feeling come over my whole body. You were different every night!
The First Taste of a Different Life
Latina America had been on my travel radar for many years. But, it’s a long way from Australia. Everywhere is I guess, but getting myself to this giant land that promised copious amounts of adventure with possible lashings of danger was going to take some planning, foreign language learning and time. And money. But time was the biggest obstacle…so I started nagging the hell out of my boss. I need six months off work. Yes, to travel. Again. Please.
My boss came through. Good boss. She was way too good to me.
So off I went with my extremely flaky Spanish skills and wide-eyed anticipation. One month with my great mate from across the road in Melbourne….tango, rock music, fancy-pants food and wine in Buenos Aires. The incredible Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. All night partying at Carnivale in Rio. Foot races to the toilet – mostly successfully. Seafood and cocktails on the beaches of Costa Rica. Wallets left in taxis….and returned by the driver who loved me because his Costa Rican soccer idol played for my team in Melbourne. Cuba….wow, Cuba.
Then it was off to Mexico on my own….may have a met a girl there. Followed by Peru, Bolivia, Mexico (maybe to see a girl), Colombia…mmmm Colombia….Mexico (maybe to see a girl), Colombia again, Mexico (yeah, to see a girl)….then home.
I’m back in Australia. It’s a great place to live. Family, friends and football. Other things too…but I’m looking to get back to Mexico. On a more permanent basis. Midlife crisis? Well I might be experiencing midlife, but I’m not undergoing a crisis.
I’m in constant dialogue with my boss again. I’d really like a redundancy package. Am I really required here? Yes, I want to go overseas again. The business is undergoing change…many things are possible in the future I’m told. Two months later I’m made redundant. Good ex-boss.
I guess it was a big move. To give up the corporate world and the income and security that comes with it. Move away from everyone….and yeah it’s not like I can pop back home whenever I feel like it. It’s a trip of around 33,000 kilometres. But I never doubted my decision once.
I realised some time ago that fancy cars and big houses weren’t going to make me happy. Debt sucks. It’s all about freedom. Memories.
Next thing I knew my stuff was sold or given away. I was saying my goodbyes as I turned 50 (definitely not a midlife crisis – I’m not seeing 100!) and heading to Mexico once again.
After previously being based in Guadalajara – the home of tequila, mariachi music and the mighty Jalisco Charros baseball team…..my girlfriend and I moved to Morelia, in the state of Michoacan. What a city it is. Some say it’s the most beautiful in Mexico. I’m not gonna argue with them.
The Spanish may have done some pretty horrible things here (yes, they did!), but there is no denying that they constructed some incredibly pretty buildings and churches. The city has a very European feel, mixed with the culture of Mexico and a number of indigenous groups from this area.
Surrounding Morelia are a cluster of awesome mountains made for hiking, and it is only a short drive to many Pueblo Magicos (“magical towns”) which have been officially recognised by the government due to their asthetics and traditions.
Morelia is a city full of music, amazing restaurants, culture and history, cool bars…..and tacos! You can buy a taco here for 10 US cents! (They may not be the best tacos in the city….but they haven’t killed me yet).
Oh, and there also plenty of Mezcalerias….small bars where you can try many different types of mezcal…….
And so it begins
I never saw it coming. I have an Excel spreadsheet full of mezcals that I have tried. Details such as where I tried each one, how it tasted, where they were produced. What sort of geekish behaviour is this?! In addition I’ve booked in a trip to Oaxaca, the Meca of mezcal….I’m touring palenques (where they make the mezcal) and well…..I’m writing this blog!
What do I love about mezcal?
The history and tradition of mezcal in Mexico is super interesting. Many of the producers go back many generations. Mezcal is produced in the spectacular countryside of Mexico which makes it fantastic to visit the many producers.
The process of making mezcal is completely natural and handmade. The spirit is produced from agave (otherwise known as maguey)….which looks like a cactus but is in fact a type of lily.
These agaves are then buried on top of firey volacanic rocks…how awesome is that…where they are roasted underground for 2-3 days. This process is responsible for the amazing flavours that are achieved.
To give you an idea, tequila is made from only one type of agave (the blue agave), whilst mezcal can be made from up to as many as 50 different types of agave….maybe more. As a result the taste of mezcal is much more complex and varied compared to that of tequila.
Also, well…. it’s about the experience of drinking it. Mezcal is not a drink to get drunk on. Well, not regularly. It’s about savouring it. Having said that, many believe that because of the purity of mezcal hangovers are far less severe than with other types of alcohol. Have I tested this theory?…haha of course I have. In my experience if you stick to drinking good quality mezcal and nothing else….you will feel pretty good the next morning. The problems start when you decide to drink beer as well….but, well….sometimes it’s hard to resist as mezcal and beer are great sipping partners.
So I’m on a journey. It’s an unexpected one in so many ways, but here we are. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on mezcal yet….but I’m on my way.
I’ll be writing a lot about my mezcal adventures in Mexico. In particular I will be concentrating on the mezcal culture here in Michoacan. Whilst Oaxaca is more well known for mezcal, here the scene is really starting to boom and I plan to visit as many places and speak to as many people as possible, and consistently add interviews, reviews and other mezcal related information to the site.
Michoacan mezcal has its own unique taste, and many decades of mezcal producing history and knowledge which is only beginning to be discovered by the rest of the world now, and I’m lucky to be right in the middle of it all.