Depending on the variety, agaves used to make mezcal take somewhere between 6 and 35 years to reach maturity. At this stage, the agave is preparing to flower and begins to condense sugars and nutrients in its core in order to grow its reproductive stalk called a quiote.

The maestro mezcalero will monitor the agaves when the qiote begins to grow. At the right moment, the mezcalero will cut off the quiote, leaving nowhere for the sugar and nutrients to go but into the heart of the plant. A few months after this castration, the agave is ready to be harvested.

With a machete or ax, the long, stiff pencas (leaves) are sheared, leaving a piña (heart of the agave) which gets its name from its resemblance to a pineapple.