Tepache: From The Mayans To The World
Tepache is a refreshing drink for a hot season.
“In this hot season, it is super refreshing to drink some tepache,” said Mauricio Oliva Briones, a tepache aficionado and worker in a mechanical workshop in the city of Veracruz.
“It is a natural drink, and it is much better than soda. People can find it at market stalls or with street vendors who offer the drink for a low price. A glass of tepache for 10 pesos — half a dollar — or, if people are exceptionally thirsty, a liter for 20 pesos,” said Oliva Briones.
Though it is a fermented drink — and by definition, an alcoholic beverage — this pineapple drink has only 1 percent alcohol by volume.
“Many think that it is an alcoholic beverage because to make it, you need a fermentation process, but the alcohol is so diluted by adding extra water, getting drunk on it is impossible,” said Oliva Briones.
Tepache has pre-Columbian roots. According to historians, it originated in Mayan communities of the Yucatán peninsula, and its name means ‘pressed in stone.’ Historians believe the Mayans included fragrant herbs in its preparation to enhance its flavor. The main difference between ancient and modern tepache is its main ingredient: Mayans used corn while modern tepache uses pineapple. Despite being a Mayan drink, the name comes from the Nahuatl ‘tepiatl.’
Modern tepache is produced from the fermentation of the pineapple skin, where its natural sugars are transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process results in a characteristic flavor. Many people add cinnamon or cloves to it and then more water to dilute it.
“Tepache is one of the most beloved and deeply rooted drinks in our country,” said Rosa Margarita Tejedor Galván, a professional chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of Veracruz.
In various parts of the country, but especially in the markets and stalls, it is common to see the drink for sale, carried out in a wooden barrel.
“It Is a drink beloved by people since, usually, near to taco and quesadilla stands, there are tepache vendors. It is the best way to accompany Mexican dishes,” said the chef.
Tepache is more than just a refreshing drink, as it provides many nutrients. Since it is a fermented drink, it has probiotics that help improve digestive processes and intestinal flora.
Pineapple provides vitamins A, B, and C and minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, and manganese, which are essential nutrients.
The drink has become fashionable in bars and clubs, where bartenders mix it with liquors such as tequila and vodka, creating exciting cocktails with a tepache base.
In this way, a drink that has strong pre-Columbian history is kept alive in modern times.
(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Kristen Butler)