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Tuesday, June 21st 2022

What Is Tejuino?

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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What Is Tejuino?

Mexico’s Fermented Corn Drink

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Introduction:

What Is Tejuino?

Popular in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit—and in other states like Oaxaca and Chihuahua—tequino is a drink with a rich history and tradition. If you’re thinking of spending some time in Mexico as an expat or a nomad, then those of us at Expat Insurance thought you might benefit from a short article answering, What is tejuino?

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Exactly What Is Tejuino?

What Is Tejuino?

If you’re looking for the short answer: it’s a fermented atole that is served cold. However, like so many of our articles, our search to answer the question, What is tejuino?, has only yielded a deep rabbit hole to make sense of and explore.

We’ll start off explaining what is your standard tequino that you buy on the street, and then we’ll explore more traditional presentations—as well as the history of tequino in Mexico.

– Your Standard Tejuino –

There are two different types of your standard tejuino, both of which are made with maseca—the same corn dough that you would use to make sopes and gorditas. This maseca is mixed with water, as a Mexican cane sugar called piloncillo is slowly boiled in a pot until the mixture is very thick.

Then, the resulting liquid is left to ferment for a day or two—not very much. The alcohol content is typically very low, like that of a kombucha (roughly 2%). Once it’s ready, it’s served with shaved ice and lime juice, or in some instances, a scoop of lime nieve (lime sorbet). Chili flakes are often added to the drink also.

– Traditional Tesgüinos –

More traditional versions of this drink are called tesgüinos. Tesgüinos are made with corn that is germinated in the dark. These sprouts are ground on a metate (a type of indigenous flat mortar and pestle), then, they’re boiled in water until you get a yellow-colored atole. It’s then left to cool and sifted through a colander. The resulting liquid can be left to ferment further, depending on the vendor.

Tesgüino is often fermented far more than tejuino. It can push the limits of what is safe to ingest, garnering a very high alcohol content—comparable to a barley wine. Some traditional recipes call for the corn dough to be fermented before the drink is brewed.

One of the most important features of a traditional tesgüino is that the pots—known as ”tesgüineras”—are never washed. The residues of previous fermentations stick to the walls of these pots, which contain living microorganisms that help to quicken the fermentation process.

Regardless how these tesgüinos are made, they are usually drunk during social or ceremonial events for a multitude of indigenous tribes that inhabit Mexico today. We explore this further in the next section.

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The History of Tejuino?

What Is Tejuino?

The word ”tejuino” comes from the Nahuatl word, ”tecuin”, which means “to beat the heart”. The origins of tejuino are nebulous, but all historians agree that it was a pre-columbian drink. Each tribe seems to have had its own traditional preparation and ritual for the consumption of tejuino.

The Nahua people—of which the Aztecs belong—worshiped tejuino as “the drink of the gods”. Even today, that name is still used to denote this fermented, corn drink. The Tarahumara and Huicholes tribes—among others—served tesgüino in their official “community outreach programs”, for lack of a better term. Any communal event that required the labor of neighboring men would serve tejuino/tesgüino—and, in effect, the alcoholic drink would serve as the payment for the men’s labor.

These social events—which are still held today—are called tesgüineras, and the whole tribe imbibes in the festivities. Even newborns and toddlers are given tesgüino —either cut with breast milk or water, so that the whole family can partake in the sacred drink of the gods.

One famous ”tesgüinera” is the festival of San Sebastian in Nochistlán de Mejía, Zacatecas. This tesgüino is made from a traditional Caxcanes recipe, which has not changed in 5 centuries. It’s made with a special type of corn, and the recipe is thick and brown, very bitter, and has none of the modern ingredients like salt, lime, or ice.

Between January 17th – 20th, pitchers of this ancient tejuino recipe are distributed among those guests gathered at the party—which is held, like Dia de Muertos, in the homes of the local residents.

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Tejuino Today

What Is Tejuino?

Though tesgüinos are reserved for special, cultural events, tejuino—the modern adaptation of this drink—is served throughout Mexico. Especially popular in Jalisco and Nayarit (though tejuino can be found in other states, such as Zacatecas, Chihuahua, and even as far south as Oaxaca), tejuino has recently begun to gain an international audience.

The modernized version of the drink, tejuino, has gained popularity in the Southwestern United States. Mexican juice bars throughout the US often serve their own tejuino—though it’s rarely fermented to the extent that you would find on the streets of Mexico.

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Conclusion

What Is Tejuino?

Whether you’re trying a tejuino from a street vendor in Nayarit, or a tesgüino at a tribal festival, you’re likely experiencing a slice of pure, raw Mexican culture. These drinks have been served throughout Mexico since before the arrival of the Europeans—and as such, they should be taken with the respect and reverence due to them. At the very least, it’s worth a try!

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