The desi tequila plant in Rayalseema could also boost agriculture in the region

India could soon be downing desi tequila shots brewed in AndhraAll images provided by Sangati Chennakesava Reddy
news Tuesday, September 01, 2015 - 15:10

For those of you who love tequila but don't get to drink it too often because of its exorbitant price, a 32-year-old research scholar from Andhra Pradesh may have just made your life easier with his home-distilled 'desi tequila.'

Sangati Chennakesava Reddy, a food technology researcher at Sri Venkateswara University has discovered what is being branded as the 'Indian Tequilla.'

It took a year of intensive research before Chennakesava figured out that the pith or collar portion of the ‘Naara Kalabanda’ plant has a high starch content, which can be extracted and distilled to prepare pure alcohol in a cost-effective manner.

Talking about the origins of the idea, he tells TNM that he always had a fascination with desert plants. "I even did my thesis on Opuntia, a flower bearing plant from the cactus family."

Chennakesava started out with a simple idea. "The Rayalseema region I come from, is considered the dry belt of the state as the water level is receding and the rainfall is also decreasing every year," he says.

"Instead of looking at High Yield Variety (HYV) seeds and thinking about how chemicals can increase the output of the crop, why not change the crops itself? Desert crops are easy to grow as they require little water and can bear extreme temperatures," he adds.

(Opening the pith of the plant)

The university's DST-PURSE Centre also validated his findings.

“At 45 per cent, the alcohol content in this plant is much higher than the 10-13 per cent found in other plant sources,” D.V.R. Saigopal, coordinator of DST-PURSE programme and a professor of virology told The Hindu.

Dr K.V Suchitra, a food scientist and an assistant professor with the Sri Venkateswara University’s home sciences department also played a major role in the project as a guide, Chennakesava says, while adding that "besides being cheaper, the alcohol is also prepared without any chemical additions, which is why we have termed it a 'Naturohol' in our patent application."

(The fermentation process)

The plant is generally seen growing wildly in the Rayalaseema region and there is no added fear of cattle grazing as it comes to its own defence with thorny leaves and sharp spikes.

Local farmers often use the plant around their fields as a natural barrier, to keep animals away from their crops.

How long does the plant take to grow? "If planted for cultivation, the plant takes around two years for maturity. However, after that, it can be harvested on a monthly basis," Chennakesava says.

The scientist is also currently in talks with a distiller to discuss bulk production.

"A few companies have approached me through the patent agency and we are holding talks. It looks positive as of now," he adds.