A Global Tequila Shortage Is Looming

High demand and low supply might make your next Margarita much more expensive.

Joe KohenAP Images

The global tequila shortage is becoming more and more of a problem as the crop of agave dwindles and the popularity of tequila grows, especially in major cities around the world. Over the last two years, the demand for tequila and mezcal have grown, while the supply of mature agave has become scarce, triggering the shortage of the final product, tequila and mezcal, which is causing tequila prices to make a jump.

Yes, The Tequila Shortage Is Real

An agave plant takes seven years to grow and mature before it can be harvested and made into either tequila or mezcal (which both come from agave, but required a different processing). WHNT says that tequila and mezcal are in short supply because of the lack of mature agave currently being farmed in the proper climates. Tequila importers are in a panic because of the lack of product.

Tequila importer Jason Perez explains that demand is far exceeding the current supply.

“There wasn’t enough supply for demand. You have to grow it for seven years in order to come up with good tequila.”

Fellow importer Miguel Aranda says that at this time, suppliers are being forced to use immature leaves, creating an inferior product.

“They take the leaves, cut it, press it, and then after that, they cook it. Then the juices that come from there become tequila.”

null

Sanatorium (NYC) bar owner Albert Trummer says that the price of tequila and tequila cocktails has gone crazy.

“It will go tremendously high up in price. For a good margarita, it can go up to $50, $60 with any kind of shortage.”

What Is The Difference Between Tequila And Mezcal?

While tequila is the most popular agave drink in the United States and around the world, mezcal is gaining ground. But what is the difference between tequila and mezcal? Food & Wine breaks down the ways that both tequila and mezcal are made from the agave plant. All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas, according to spirits writer John McEvoy.

“Tequila is a type of mezcal, much like how scotch and bourbon are types of whiskey. Mezcal is defined as any agave-based liquor. This includes tequila, which is made in specific regions of Mexico and must be made from only blue agave (agave tequilana).”

The two products are made in different regions but there is some overlap.

“Tequila is produced in five places: Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco, which is where the actual town of Tequila is located. Conversely, mezcal is produced in nine different areas of Mexico. The include Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca.”

Tequila and mezcal are also distilled differently, with the agave being steamed for tequila and cooked inside earthen pits for mezcal. For this reason, mezcal has a smokier taste.

null

Over The Last Year, 15,000 Tequila Producing Blue Agave Plants Were Reported Stolen

Esquire says that the 18 million blue agaves planted in 2011 that are ready for harvest this year for the production of tequila are not nearly enough to meet the demand which is thought to be 42 million plants, and tequila producers in Jalisco are in a panic. According to the Tequila Regulatory Council, the popularity of tequila has doubled in a few short years, creating unique problems.

“Agave prices have risen six-fold—from 3.8 pesos per kilo to 22—over the past two years, while demand from the United States and Japan has skyrocketed.”

The United States is the consumer of 80 percent of the tequila produced for the world market, and theft of blue agave plants has become a serious problem also in Mexico, where 15,000 plants were reported stolen in the last year.