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Niki Nakazawa is the real deal — a description we find as apt as it is coincidental, given that it’s one way of translating the name of her mezcal company, Neta. Raised in the States, Niki’s introduction to Mexico came through studying abroad in Oaxaca in the mid-00’s.

Something clicked, and since moving there in 2007, she has led a colorful existence through art, music, film, food, and drink. What we find inspiring about Niki is how all of her projects and creations stem from a foundation of knowledge, experience and understanding of history and place. Prior to starting Beta, she had already earned the nickname “Queen of Mezcal” amongst respected food and beverage professionals, who looked to her as a consultant not only for drink but local and indigenous ingredients. On this year’s sourcing visit to Oaxaca, we spent a morning with Niki at her home in the city, along with our mutual friend Luna Antonia Arboleda, who shot photos for this story. Read on to learn more about Niki and see photos from our morning together.

P.S. If you’re new to or unfamiliar with mezcal, check out this LA Times interview with Niki where she breaks it dow

Could you give us a brief bio in your own words?

Do you have a morning or daily ritual? Has it shifted for you over time?

How did you come to live in Oaxaca? 

Can you tell us about how Neta came about? What were some of the posing questions you asked?

We learned that the word "Neta" holds more significance than its direct translation. What is the nuance behind the name?

How does mezcal play into the daily culture in Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca?

How did you come to be doing what you’re doing now? Did you always see this kind of life for yourself? (Was there any “Aha” moment for you that made a significant impact on your path?)

What’s your definition of “community”? How do architecture and physical space play apart?

How do you approach sourcing? Why does it matter?

On composting, farming, and CSAs: What are some ways we can integrate these values and practices into daily living, or at scales big and small?