Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tepache - A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache, in Tacubaya (from Wikimedia Commons, user Thelmadatter)
Tepache is a traditional fermented pineapple drink popular in some areas of Mexico. As seen in the picture, it is a reddish colour.  It is still fairly sweet, and only mildly fermented - perhaps similar to that of a milder traditional fermented apple ciders.  (Not the Strongbow's sort, but the actual raw apple juice naturally fermented.)

The place where I have had it most often is in a small group of flauta shops in the Tacubaya neighborhood of Mexico City.

Flautas are tortillas, rolled up with a little meat in the middle, fried until crispy and brittle; they are served with lettuce and sauce on top of them, and, in the case of these shops in Tacubaya, with tepache.

Tacubaya is mostly a working class neighbourhood, and it's the end of one of the major subway lines, thus also serving as a major bus and transportation terminal.  On Sunday afternoons, many young adults from villages to the west of Mexico City (approx. 1 hr away) come to Tacubaya, hang out in what's sort of a village square, and enjoy the dining and shopping of this vibrant neighborhood, all of which is really, really cheap (I got a pair of New Balance running shoes there for $40 - originals!)  The neighborhood is in no way pretty or picturesque, but has a charm that only a place that has been given over entirely to practicality of the city and has been "discovered" only by those who need it's cheapness and complete lack of pretentiousness.  It was one of the original Aztec villages that was in alliance with Mexico City (Tenochtitlan) when the Spaniards arrived at the time of the conquest.

So, needless to say, the flauta shops are also really cheap.  If I remember correctly, the flautas are sold 3 for 50 cents, and the tall glass of Tepache seen in the picture is also about 50 cents.  So, with $2, you'll be doing quite well in this place.  (This is why I was surprised when I moved to Playa del Carmen from Mexico City, and realized that here, even with $10, you're better off staying home.  One of the biggest charms of Mexico City is that you can go out with less than a dollar to your name and have a great time.)
Vats of Tepache in Tacubaya (from Wikimedia Commons, user Thelmadatter)

I found tepache once in Playa del Carmen. The fruit and vegetable store where we normally shop (the same one that had those wonderful tamales being sold in front of it, see xxx), sells fresh fruit juices at about 60 cents a glass.  One day they had tepache as one of the choices. Although this doesn't really count as "fresh fruit juice," I was delighted and had a glass.  I've never found it since.  One of these days I'll ask them for it.

If you're in Mexico City, I highly recommend trying tepache.  It's easier to find, and easier to take down than pulque.  I'm sure there are many other places to try great tepache as well.

To read about pulque, another traditional Mexican drink, read:

My Mexico City Experience - Pulque

A note about the pictures: they are not my pictures, but they are from Wikimedia commons (with a shareable license) and the person who took and posted them noted that they are from Tacubaya; I also recognize the place.

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