We woke up weary one Sunday morning in Oaxaca, a bit crudo from the previous day’s celebrations at a neighborhood religious fiesta – an afternoon of mezcal, mole, and raucous dancing with the locals – and begrudgingly decided to take the two-hour cab ride into the Sierra Madre mountains to visit an old friend of mine. Keveen – a permaculture love warrior, had spent five years living and working with a family of mezcal producers, learning their art. Within twenty minutes of our arrival, Noel was waist deep in conversation with the mezcaleros.
Keveen gave me a tour of the palenque and described the family’s difficulties with their current buyer and brander. Despite claims of being a socially, culturally, and environmentally responsible company, the family was living total poverty, waiting for the buyer to finally pay the exceedingly large sum of money they were owed. Clearly, they needed a new business partner. Noel’s passion for mezcal did not escape their notice, and we left that day with a gift of ten liters – our door to a new business.
In the months that followed, through giving tastings, visiting mezcalerias, and dancing joyously through the kitchen in my underwear with a glass of Tobalá in my hand, I’ve become enamored with the spirit. In one sip, the sacred maguey will share with you the story of her people – from goddesses, to emperors, to impoverished farmers. Mezcal is liquid passion; it’s a breath of fire in your face, followed by a tender caress, and a night of fervent dancing between the sheets. And like a headstrong and bewitching woman, treat her lightly and she’ll drag you naked through the field and leave you to rot. But handle her with respect, and you’ll find yourself being lead from steamy romance to lifelong love affair.
Noel and I are now building our dream: a mezcal brand that truly supports mezcaleros and their communities. Our goal is to sell only the highest quality mezcal from artisanal, small-batch producers, while disseminating Mexico’s rich cultural heritage and contributing to the sustainability of this art. We also have plans to bottle mezcal from states rarely found on the shelves in the U.S.A., such as Guerrero, Sonora, and others.
Nopa ignited my passion for sharing the human story behind our victuals and libations. They helped me to see that food and drink are not merely sustenance and pleasure – they are a medium for cultivating the human connection and growing whole and healthy communities. I aim to imbue this philosophy into everything I do, whether it be launching a mezcal brand, or simply sharing a glass of Tobalá with a neighbor.
– Rachel Glueck
Editorial: Part 1
Photography: Işık Önder