The year of Agave!

The year of Agave!

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Tequila Interchange Project

First of all, thank you! If you are receiving this, your support has created the platform, community, and network we call the Tequila Interchange Project. It’s 2014! With your engagement we are ready to accomplish projects that will foster sustainable and just changes in the agave distilled spirits industry.

There is so much to cover in this first edition of the TIP monthly newsletter. Please take some time to see what we’re working on and how you can get involved.

Through the use of inter-disciplinary research and in depth community engagement we intend to identify industry practices which are harmful and exploitative to stimulate conversation and action. We believe that a healthy industry is a successful industry. A successful industry is a healthy community. A healthy community is an informed community.

Using the platform we have built together we aim to amplify all of the expert voices on the ground (and in the field) to honor the tradition of tequila and agave distilled spirits. We all showed the level of impact our global community can have with the collection of 3000+ signatures from around the world in opposition to NOM 186 over the course of a couple of days starting on January 22, 2012.  Now, let’s carry that spirit by presenting information that truly represents tequila and the story of agave to the consumer and connoisseur. We seek to tell agave’s story and present a culture that transcends brands, industries, and labels. This story begins with people, community, family and you.

 We are recording an ancient story, beginning thousands of years ago spanning many cultures ranging from Fillipino to Spanish, and ultimately ending up uniquely Mexican. From the archaeological exploration of pre-hispanic agave beverages this past December to assessing the health and labor practices experienced by Jimadores in spring of 2014, TIP seeks to present a holistic perspective of the challenges facing the agave industry.

We are counting on your support and input. The Tequila Interchange Project is launching new objectives with renewed vigor to ensure that the industry and products we love are sustainable and just.  Through education and research, help us build

a sustainable tequila industry and products that contribute positively to the environment. Examples related to sustainability are:  making sure bat populations have the opportunity to pollinate the 1-2% of the quiotes; using agave species with healthy robust genetics; properly disposing of industrial waste; protecting water and access to it if equitable; regenerating soil.

A just tequila industry honors the expertise of the people, plants and creatures at every step of the production line. Profits are shared equitably and reinvested into the land. Funds are put back into the community. Artisanal and traditional producers have the opportunity to participate in the global market. Land rights and human dignity are honored.

Help us secure necessary funding for staffing and legal advocacy. The Tequila Interchange Project is months (or weeks) away from being a registered 501(c)3 and your contributions will soon be tax deductible.

Message from the President

As the Tequila Interchange Project we have invested three years developing a foundation. This foundation is made up of credible people with international profiles who are voicing their concern about trends in the industry. It began as an exchange. We took bartenders to the agave fields and the distilleries to understand what tequila is all about. We travelled to look at the process and the history. We are now taking trips to accomplish specific projects that link those serving the drinks to those making the spirits, growing the agave, and passing on the tradition.

This year TIP is taking a more direct approach to achieving positive, long-term change. It is this tradition we are attempting to present to the world. Through our archaeology project in December 2013 to our upcoming labor projects we hope you’ll help take this next step with us. TIP is changing, the industry is changing, let’s do it correctly. Sustainably. And with the people in mind.

-David Suro


TIP’s new board member:

Phoebe Esmon has lived all over the south eastern/mid western United States.  Her academic pursuits landed her in Philadelphia in 2008. She was the founding president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, and continues to be active within her community.  Phoebe is currently the Lead Bartender at Emmanuelle, which she runs with her professional partner and fiancé, Christian R. Gaal. Welcome Phoebe!

TIP’s new staff position: Development Coordinator Miguel Huerta

In May, Miguel obtained a Masters in Social Work with an organizational/program concentration from the University of Pennsylvania. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado this Chicano is a spoken word poet, organizer and youth advocate. Miguel is excited to use his expertise to advocate for  the preservation of sustainable, traditional, and quality practices in the agave distilled spirits. He is excited to learn more about this central pillar composing the identity of Mexico.

Thank you’s to Sip for TIP supporters

The Franklin, Philadelphia

Toni Bjorn

GCB, Providence

Susan Yund

El Rancho Grande, Providence

Joaquin Meza

The Farmhouse, Kansas City

Heather Searls

The Esquire Tavern, San Antonio

Houston Eaves

Oven and Shaker, Portland

Ryan Magarian

Emmanuelle, Philadelphia

Phoebe Esmon and Christian R. Gaal

Tequilas Restaurant, Philadelphia


Mayahuel, New York City

Phil Ward

Pastry War, Houston

Bobby Heugel and Ceci Norman

Beau Williams and Ryan Maybee from Manifesto “La Calabaza”

Remedy Kitchen & Bar, Kansas City

Valdez Campos

Extra Virgin, Kansas City

Alberto Santoro

Brandon Cummins, Tequila Ocho and Pierde Almas

Las Perlas, Los Angeles

Raul Yrastorza

Kimberly Patton Bragg, New Orleans

Looking back

Since NOM 186

A major priority identified by TIP’s board is obtaining a legal advocate who can keep an eye on legislation that will affect the regulation of tequila and mezcal. The defeat of NOM 186 was a huge success for TIP but it is only the beginning of the work. We believe that this formidable beast will come back with multiple heads and from multiple directions. Splitting legislation up and hiding it in other bills is a common strategy across the globe when a bill with unlimited financial support is defeated by popular pressure. We need to be ready. Any information, suggestions or contacts would be incredibly helpful!

Pre-Hispanic Distillation in Colima?

TIP hit the roads of Colima with archaeologists

Dr. Fernando Gonzels and Dr. Laura Alemendros of INAH

(National Institute of Archaeology and History) and

Dr. Pat McGovern (Biomolecular Archaeologist, University of Pennsylvania)

and Dr. Dan Healan (Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Tulane University).

It is 10am and an unlikely group of comrades are loaded into a van. Our fearless driver, Isabel races through dirt roads somewhere in Colima, Mexico. I laugh as the customary call to “get your copitas out!” comes from either Phil Ward or Ryan Fitzgerald (they took turns). A bottle of Tuxca purchased on the Partida farm yesterday is cracked open and I watch an Ivy League archaeologist and one of the foremost Mesoamerican anthropologists get reverse-peer pressured into a morning warm of the belly.

We meet up with Fernando Gonzales and Laura Almendros from the National Institute of Archaeology and History (INAH) for a tour of the archaeological site believed to be related to the Capacha culture.  Much of the site has yet to be excavated so it looked like any other field. It was on the far edge of a school’s campus. School bells rang and children lined up for class as we stood off in the distance.

The team at INAH has used scanning technology to examine what’s underground but is currently waiting for the funds and permits to begin the main excavation. They describe the initial discovery and how the pottery was positioned. After seeing the site we follow them to INAH. This re-purposed hacienda is filled to the brim with artifacts. Dozens of crates stacked with pottery shards, shelves and tables filled with figurines and dishes. Some date back as far as 4,000 years. The group silently watches Dr. McGovern and Dr. Healan inspect the vessels that Dr. Gonzales and Dr. Almendros believe could have been used to distill agave spirits 3,000 years ago.

Later when I asked how he got involved with TIP and why, Pat McGovern laughed and replied “good question”. It started when David Suro and Derek Brown had lunch with Pat and began to introduce him to the world of mezcales. He said David initially reached out to see how they could connect McGovern’s research to mezcales. McGovern was very intrigued and began reading up on the current knowledge. He then attended Tales of the Cocktails 2013 with TIP and did a presentation on ancient beverages and their botanical, chemical and archaeological  analysis. Now he’s trekking through Mexico with TIP.

Pat McGovern was most excited to experience places he has only read about and with such a dynamic group. He was also excited to talk to the archaeologists and botanists who have worked on the material he’s read. I believe this was accomplished. After exploring the landscape of Jalisco and Colima, Pat McGovern successfully made it through customs with the ancient pottery samples and is currently analyzing them. A group of TIPsters will be joining him in the UPenn labs in the coming weeks to learn about the results. Stay tuned!

2014 with the Tequila Interchange Project

Fundraiser for The Love of Agave

Join us at Tequilas Restaurant March 9th to help launch our ambitious year! Featuring guest bartenders Bobby Huegal (Houston), Misty Kalkofen (Boston), Phil Ward (NYC), Phoebe Esmon and a team of Philly bartenders…

Tales of the Cocktail 2014

The Tequila Interchange Project will join various industry experts for a debate-style seminar titled: Time vs. Technology: Agave’s Past & Future. Tales of the Cocktail 2014 will be held July 16th-20th. Specific details TBA.

A Healthy Industry Starts with Healthy Jimadores

This year TIP will focus on the foundation of the industry, the Jimador. Since the unprecedented agave shortage in the early 2000s Jimadores have lost their prestige and influence. They have become marginalized if not completely ignored. The Tequila Interchange Project believes these men are experts and hold ancient knowledge that could save our industry from exhausting the land, the agave, and the people. We’re going to listen and imagine a perfect day in the life of a Jimador. We’ll start by learning about their health, the health of their families and communities and their access to health care. More info to come!


TIP has the people, the places, and the influence to accomplish our projects but as a brand new organization we are in desperate need of financial resources. Please consider making a one-time or monthly tax-deductible donation. This is an exciting opportunity to help foster our growth and ensure we can continue to be a voice that advocates for quality, justice, and sustainability in the industry we love.

You can help us in more ways than donating! 

Help spread the word!

Like our Facebook / Follow us on Twitter / Share videos from our Youtube Channel


Facebooktwitterredditlinkedintumblrmailby feather