Cachaça is one of the national treasures of our land; as old as Brazil itself. Today, we will learn a little bit about its origins!
Cachaça is made from distilled sugar cane and it’s the main ingredient of the famous caipirinha. Some sources say it was invented here in Brazil in 1532, while others say that the portuguese had already discovered in the XV century.
Be as it may, it got a fertile ground here in Brazil: Not everyone had the money to have the structure to produce sugar and sell it to Portugal in the early colonial days, so a cheaper option was the production of cachaça, that got very popular here in the colony and also as a trading good in the coast of Africa where would be exchanged for enslaved people.
In fact, cachaça got so popular in the colony that Portugal saw it as a problem: Back in the day, the portuguese had a beverage called “Bagaceira”, produced from the distilled grapes that were not used in the vineyards. Thing is: Cachaça was way cheaper and popular, so people were not buying bagaceira anymore. What Portugal did was to raise taxes for cachaça makers, which led to the Cachaça Revolt in 1660!!
Between the XVI and XVII centuries, there was a boom in cachaça production in the southeast of the country, because of the gold rush in Minas Gerais. It is said that it was during that migration that people realized that if you put cachaça in a barrel for a long time, eventually the cachaça would get the color, taste and scents of the wood that was used, just like wine and whisky; although not only oak was used, but also all kinds of typical brazilian wood, even the already expensive “pau-brasil” extracted since the beginning of the colonial days to be used in buildings and cloth dyeing.
Cachaça nowadays is going through its renaissance days, with multiples “Alambiques” (the place where cachaça is made) taking part in national competitions and becoming once more popular everywhere in Brazil. In 2012 the cachaça was finally made a Cultural and Historical National Patrimony.
If you want to learn more about cachaça and where you can find it here in Brazil and Rio, keep wits about our next post on this blog, where we will talk about some great places to try and buy this unique piece of our culture.
Photo by: Sitio Nova Vida (www.sitionovavida.com.br)