Dozens of ancient secrets have been lost over time…. But every now and then someone appears from out of the blue with the courage dream of rescuing them from oblivion… and making them stronger. This is how the tradition of the “chawarmisqui” has found a revival in the outskirts of Quito with Diego Mora’s Casa Agave project.
It has been fifteen years since Daniel, together with his wife, Andrea Villaroel, have been working on this project of research, innovation and enhancement of the Andean agave culture, through the first Casa Agave Museum, factory and distillery.
Pride and origin
Some know him as ‘pencos’, others as ‘cabuyo’ or ‘chaguar’. Its generic name is agave and in ancient times, the plant was venerated by our indigenous people since almost all of its parts were used to obtain various benefits and products. One of these, the “chawarmisqui” or mead, unfortunately began to be denigrated as “Indian water” or “poor water” and its power and importance began to be lost.
The knowledge necessary for the extraction of this drink is only available to the misquero. One of those magical and ancient trades of which very few remain. The Misqueros know that agave takes between 10 and 15 years to mature, and they have the wisdom to wait for the perfect moment to recognize and select the agave that is ready for extraction. Using a unique artisan technique where the agave is coated, minced and scraped, this drink is obtained.
It was precisely one of the last Misqueros in the Middle of the World, Don Virgilio Collahuazo, who – in a deep conversation with Diego – inspired him to put the culture around this plant back in the limelight, working for the recovery and enhancement of a true Andean heritage and of all the ancestral knowledge that surrounds it.
This is how Casa Agave was born, a comprehensive project that has worked to recover this tradition, giving it a different perspective through the preparation of miske, an alcoholic beverage that is the result of the fermentation of “chawarmisqui”, what we know as Andean agave.
The Andean agave and its house of experiences
An agave garden in the middle of the world is the setting where Casa Agave opens its doors to us. Walking among dozens of varieties of cacti, planting your own agave and experiencing its different uses, are just the beginning of this journey that combines anecdotes and history.
“I have identified a sacred tree for the natives who venerate it as much as a God, since it provides them with food, shelter and drink (…). From their very heart, buried in the highlands, they extract their white blood to drink it and thus ingest life itself, they say.
With this phrase begins the journey through the second step of the experience: a museum where the historical references that cover this space range from documentation on the heritage of the use of the plant and the ancestral traditions that surround it, to an exhibition of unique pieces where one learns the value, history and importance of agave in our culture.
In this journey you can also learn about the artisanal production processes of agave and delve into its different stages: pasteurization, fermentation, distillation, condensation, rest, etc. The social importance of this project is such that the production of “chawarmisqui” is in the hands of eight misquerkas by trade who are heads of household with more than 60 years.
To close with a flourish, it’s time for tasting. A ritual where the experience acquires another meaning through a fun and methodical tasting. Aromas, nuances, textures and retro-taste… .a surprise for all palates who end up in love with its emblematic product —the MISKE— and the versatility of its flavor to create unique cocktails.
At Casa Agave, they wanted to go a step further and now they market all agave derivatives: honey, capers, juices and, of course, the two versions of their distillate: Miske Reposado and Miske Silver.
Casa Agave is a mandatory stop. A journey of experiences and knowledge towards a heritage that makes us proud, with a human warmth that invites us to return and a drink that has the potential to be a symbol of identity.
If they have not gone … they are already taking time.
Address: Quishuar N3-29 y Casitahua Pomasqui
Phone: +593 998316455 / 022354426