A large spikey blue-grey plant growing in a glasshouse
Agave tequilana

Blue agave

Family: Asparagacae
Other common names: 太匮龙舌兰 (Chinese simplified), 藍色龍舌蘭 (Chinese traditional), tequila agave (English), tekiila-agaav (Estonian), テキーラーリュウゼツラン (Japanese), Texometl (Nahuatl), agawa niebieska (Polish), agave chato, agave azul, agave tequilero (Spanish), อากาเวสีฟ้า, อากาเวเตกีลา (Thai)

On the west coast of Mexico, in the state of Jalisco, thousands of blue agave plants are grown for one of the countries’ most famous liquid exports: tequila.

Many blue agave plantations are found around the town of Tequila, hence the name of the drink.

Blue agave is harvested by jimadores, who use a tool called a coa to cut the leaves away from the core of the plant, known as the piña.

The piñas are then baked, pulped and juiced. This is fermented and distilled, to produce ‘silver’ tequila, which can be sold as is, or aged in wooden barrels.

Due to reliance on one blue agave variety, Weber Azul, for tequila production, the genetic diversity of the species is under threat, making it more susceptible to infestation and disease.

Blue agave are large succulents. The ‘Weber Azul’ variety used for tequila production grow to around 2m tall, and have blue-grey leaves, which are fleshy and spiked. The other blue agave variety is smaller, with green leaves. After five years of growth, the agave sprouts a stalk that can grow up to 5m tall, which will bloom with yellow flowers.

Read the scientific profile for blue agave

Food and drink

The heart of the blue agave is used in the production of tequila in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Blue agave is one of the species of agave used to produce agave syrup, a plant-based alternative to honey.

Materials and fuels

The pulp left over after the piña is mashed is used as animal feed, compost or processed into paper.

  • Tequila can only be made from blue agave, but other agave species, like Caribbean agave (A. angustifolia) and maguey (A. americana), are used to make the drink mezcal.

  • The name agave comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘agauos’, meaning ‘noble’.

A map of the world showing where blue agave is native and introduced to
Native: Mexico Central, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southwest
Introduced: Canary Is., Queensland
Habitat:

Grows in mineral-rich, loamy soils above 1,500m, in semidry areas in western Mexico.

Kew Gardens

A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.

Location

Princess of Wales Conservatory

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Best time to see
Foliage: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

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The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).