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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Nicotine & Strength

Nicotine is a naturally occurring organic compound in the same family of substances (alkaloids) as caffeine. Nicotine is found in tobacco plants, and to a lesser degree in tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, and eggplant*. The general effects of nicotine are biphasic: initially it is mentally invigorating, and then it leads to a relaxing effect.

Like alcohol and caffeine, nicotine can be addictive and its effects will vary depending on the user and delivery method. Cigarette smokers are typically the most dependent users of nicotine. By design, cigarette smoke is acidic and meant to be inhaled into the lungs where it is easily absorbed in large amounts. Alternately, cigar and pipe tobacco smoke is alkaline and is not meant to be inhaled into the lungs. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of pipe and cigar smokers do not exhibit nicotine addiction because they do not inhale and ingest significantly less nicotine than cigarette smokers.

* The fact that nicotine is found in vegetables is simple proof that 'the dose makes the poison' and not all methods of consuming nicotine are addictive (e.g. cigars and pipes).

Nicotine Strength

Nicotine is something we feel. As with caffeine and alcohol, every person has a different tolerance level to nicotine: too much nicotine can induce nausea and light headedness.  If this ever happens to you, consume a little sugar and the feelings will subside. Consequently, cigars and pipes should be smoked on a full stomach when the body is properly fortified. 

The effects or quantity of nicotine are what determines the strength of a cigar or pipe tobacco. It can be said that a particular tobacco has strong spice or strong body, but these are, more accurately, flavor and sensation descriptions. 

The true strength of a balanced cigar or pipe tobacco comes from the nicotine, not the flavor.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Certified Cigar Reviews - Free Worksheet

Here is our Certified Cigar Reviews (CCR) Worksheet: you can fill it in by hand or use your computer.  In addition, it includes hyperlinks to important definitions and our Academic Curriculum, FAQ, Glossary, and more... Enjoy it is a printable document which you can keep for personal use or share with your friends and/or customers.

This download is free to anyone who wants to use it for any purpose.  It is tailored to the Certified Cigar Review process which emphasizes proper terminology, comprehensive structure and a professional process.  Enjoy!  

Friday, October 6, 2023

Growing "Cigar" Tobacco In Missouri: By Danica Baird, CMT

 “What do you think?” Corey asked me when I stepped foot onto the open empty field. It was a warm Saturday morning in May, and I had no idea what my expectations were or how taking this risk would become one of the greatest learning experiences I ever had. I simply smiled, “We will see.” Like many things in life, patience and hard work can cultivate a lot of results. Growing tobacco can bring this to the surface. I was taught on how to grow tobacco in the Northwest corner of Missouri, in a small town called Dearborn. I learned techniques from the Dominican way and good old American ingenuity. Also, by a mix of machines and hands-on throughout the process.

To say I was optimistic was a bit of an understatement. As I observed the open field there were no mountains, this wasn’t a valley by any means… So, no nutrient erosion. Was it hot? Yes. But what about the soil? Was it good enough to sustain and grow good hearty tobacco? This spot of land had a slight slope and little to no tree coverage around the perimeter. The slope helped on rainy days distribute the water absorbed into the soil richly among the plants.  The soil in this area is heavy clay loam to sandy with high organic matter which helps the area grow a variety of healthy crops. Corey described the land has been decent to tend but is also learning about what varietal of tobacco grows the best. This year was Broadleaf. The land was owned by the city of Dearborn and was next to the water waste lake and a large creek. Just to the East there was a small corn field and some city buildings… let’s just say I was given GPS coordinates to get to the location.

Corey is Corey Frisbee, who started Weston Tobacco in 2010 with his son Colton. More like brothers than father and son; they worked together with very little to build a small, humble, homegrown business, that became a staple in the area. After Colton’s tragic passing, Corey couldn’t step foot back into Weston again but the passion he developed for tobacco continued to burn in him. He knew he needed to continue working with tobacco in some capacity and thus I encountered him on his third year of growing Missouri tobacco.

Every weekend from May to August I traveled to Dearborn and met with Corey to pick his brain about cigars and tobacco, as well as to learn all the hands-on farming. The field we would be planting on had grown everything from corn to hemp. During the off seasons Corey said they picked something that wouldn’t change the soil or need too much caring for. We prepped the soil by cultivating it by machine and by hand. The land was cultivated every week for several weeks before planting to ensure impurities such as old crop, sticks, rocks, and weeds were all removed. The field was also walked by foot to double check for these impurities prior to growing. There weren’t any chemicals added to the soil prior to planting. We ensured there were stacked mounds for the plants to be implanted on. We used a hand fed mechanical planter to drop the plants. Some of us would walk behind and ensure the plants were standing tall and hand planting the missed spots.

Throughout the coming weeks I would hoe the field by hand, pull weeds, cut the grass, cut off suckers, top the plants, even add a chemical that sealed the top where it was topped to help the tobacco continue to grow. Over the last couple of weeks in August we stalk cut the plants. Corey said in his experience stalk cutting Broadleaf was best. So, we cut and spike the plants on lathes before barn hanging them. It should be noted that as I write this, the plants are still hanging in the air-curing barn until about Thanksgiving when they will be packaged and sent to Hail and Cotton in Tennessee as well as several other vendors who purchased it.

To give a broader perspective, after planting, the following weeks we began to really work and mind the fields. This was done by hoeing the mounds around the plants, making sure they had enough soil around to develop a sturdy, healthy base of the stalk. We continued to check for land impurities by walking the 3 acres by foot and checking every planted row. As the plants began to grow, they would sprout suckers or second shoots. In the next week we patrolled by foot again and took these off. It was important to do this for a strong base and to ensure the tobacco leaves have the best chance at proper growth and nutrient enrichments you need only one base or stalk.

Until the leaves reached a point of topping, this tending was completed every week. We also included tending to the surrounding area by mowing the grass and ensuring we had walking rows. Every week as the plants continued to grow, we would add another part of the tending. Pulling weeds and cutting excess plants became a part of those weeks. When the plants became about 3-4 feet tall, they sprouted their flowers at the top. That week was topping week. Using hatchets, we walked the field and cut off the flowers along with suckers. Another group would walk behind us and spray a specific non-toxic chemical that would “seal” the spot where the plant was cut in order to keep more from growing and ensure the plant nutrients remained. This is the only chemical that we ever added during the tobacco growing process.

In the last week of July and first weeks of August we began to stalk cut and hang. Now around 9 weeks after we first planted, after all the tending and pruning, it was time to cut. Stalk cutting caused a longer curingprocess, however it allows the tobacco to have a deeper, richer flavor. Stalk cutting is the process of cutting the full tobacco plant several inches from where the stalk meets the ground and spearing it on a lathe. The lathe is a large wooden stick, at the end of this stick would be a metal, cylinder-shaped, removable spike. This is actually a very dangerous process, says the new scars on my hand and forearm… If you are not standing on the proper section of the spike, you can easily get impaled when pushing the stalk onto the lathe.

Over the last several months of working on the field I became very humbled by the process. To work with the soil and plants by hand, to see everything I read and watched put into practice was rewarding. I can say it was a unique experience. While working on the field I also continued my education. Studying Cigars 101 and earning my Certified Cigar Sommelier Tobacconist (CCST) and Certified Retail Tobacconist (CRT) degrees from Tobacconist University. I also produced and taught a Cigar 101 class for the cigar lounge I work at.

I spent the last 12 years as a law enforcement officer in Kansas before taking a medical retirement last December. During my time there I saw and experienced things that are hard to describe. To say I suffered mentally is an understatement. I needed something to help me heal, something to give me purpose. Cigars did that, growing tobacco did that, learning to roll did that. Rolling has very quickly become a deep passion. Devin Ashley of Bad Ash Cigars was my first teacher, followed by Corey. I still have my first rolled cigar!

This regal life within the cigar world can give you a purpose if you are looking for one. It can also give you peace. I’ve met some fascinating, passionate, adoring people within this culture. No matter the path we find ourselves on we can always find an outlet in the cigar way of life.

Monday, February 20, 2023

The SOTL Global Movement Maestro School


Sisters Of The Leaf (SOTL) Unite!  

We are proud to announce our new and historic partnership with the SOTL Global Movement.   The SOTL Global Movement is an international organization committed to introducing, supporting and empowering women in the cigar industry and Tobacconist University is proud to engage with them and their mission.  We strongly believe that their contributions to our industry will benefit us all and contribute to our vision of "preserving luxury tobacco for generations to come".

The SOTL Global Movement has earned the privilege of administering their own Certified Cigar Sommelier Tobacconist (CCST) Maestro School and they are actively certifying aficionados through Tobacconist University.   See what they have accomplished by clicking here.

If you are a woman who loves cigars and would like to learn, network and contribute more, we encourage you to visit SOTL Global Movement or email

Monday, August 22, 2022

Celebrating 25+ Years


Time flies and it is hard to believe that 25+ years have gone by since the founding of Tobacconist University.  We are so busy managing record level certifications and developing our future infrastructure that we fail to look back and appreciate what we have accomplished.  So we had to dig deep into our archives to put this timeline together and we were pleasantly rewarded with a trip down memory lane; we hope you enjoy it!

1996 Cuban Cigar University Is Born
Less than six months after opening his first store in Princeton, NJ, TU founder Jorge Armenteros goes to Cuba and accidentally meets the director general of Cubatabaco, getting access to farms, factories and rare educational materials which become the foundation of Tobacconist University's academic curriculum.  Armenteros returns to the US and creates a curriculum to train his tobacconists and starts doing consumer seminars under the brand name Cuban Cigar University.

"I wasn't even a fully developed adult human, yet I opened my first store in 1995 at the age of 21.  I went to Cuba in 1996 to further my knowledge of premium cigars.  When I got back I realized I needed to create a program to educate my tobacconists and customers.  I did this because I wanted to be the best.  By 1997 we were doing live seminars with customers in hotel meeting rooms." - Armenteros   

2005 Tobacconist University And The Certified Seal Is Born
While opening 3 stores in 3 states, Armenteros continues to train his retail tobacconists using the Cuban Cigar University (CCU) curriculum.   Until now, CCU was a proprietary educational program to train professionals for a single company.  The challenges of employee education/product knowledge, the proliferation of bad information on the internet, and the continual threats of new taxation and smoking bans incites the desire to turn the program ‘inside out’ and make it available to all retail tobacconists.  The power of the internet allows for the creation of a website to provide free and credible information for consumers and tobacconists.  

"For a decade, our original CCU curriculum consisted of giant notebooks, transparent overhead projector sheets, and paper exams... until we put it online." - Armenteros

"The TU Certified Seal and Lapel pin is the first and only symbol of a professionally trained tobacconist." - Armenteros

2007 Tobacconist University (TU) Arrives
TU becomes the official educational curriculum of the RTDA/IPCPR, today’s Premium Cigar Association (PCA).  This begins a 10+ year period of building out the online academic programs and administering free final exams at the annual tradeshow convention.  Funding is scarce but a few companies provide enough help for TU to survive.  PadrĂ³n Cigars provides a significant endowment and others like Tatuaje Cigars, Drew Estate, and Miami Cigars support TU as well.  Our first tradeshow booth for administering TU exams was 2008. 

"We spent the next 10+ years staffing a booth at the tradeshow and certifying more than 400 Certified Retail Tobacconists (CRT); it was slow, expensive, but steady growth." - Armenteros

2009 The Tobacconist Handbook 1st Edition
The historic release of The Tobacconist Handbook marks the first time a comprehensive book is published to educate tobacconists.  As a distillation of the TU online curriculum, The Tobacconist Handbook can provide enough education for TU students to pass their final exams and give anyone a well-rounded education on luxury tobacco.

"Writing this book nearly killed me; it was like having a tiger by the tail and I couldn't let go.  While it is a distillation of the online curriculum, it still took a year to compile/write, working typically from 10pm to 3am, after normal hours of running my shops and TU.  While I am normally an avid reader, I didn't read a book for two years after this project!  It took a lot out of me." - Armenteros

2012 - 2015 R&D Cigars
Our revolutionary program to create educational cigars where we research and develop cigars along with their component puros and educational content.  This program created the R&D Brazilian Corojo and PA/CT Broadleaf cigars which were sold exclusively to Certified Retail Tobacconists (CRT).  Unfortunately, onerous regulatory threats from the FDA made the next Mexican San Andres and Organic Nicaraguan projects impossible to release.  Once again, over regulation kills another dream in the luxury tobacco industry.  Click here to learn more about R&D Cigars.


"R&D Cigars was my pride and joy, a grand educational cigar adventure that created cigars that only Certified Tobacconists could sell; a bona fide competitive and educational advantage.  Alas, it was extremely costly to execute and killed by the FDA." - Armenteros

2018 Online Final Exams for Everyone!
After a decade of administering final exams at the PCA tradeshow and through the USPS with Certified Tobacconists administering paper tests, we deploy online exams for everyone; making our certification programs (CCT, CRT, CST) 100% online and fueling unprecedented growth. 

"It was actually terrifying to put our final exams online; mostly due to fear of people cheating or releasing the questions to the public.  Fortunately, our community of luxury tobacco lovers has integrity and a deep commitment to the value of education and certification." - Armenteros

2019 The Cigar Sommelier Is Born
The Certified Cigar Sommelier Tobacconist (CCST) degree is released.  Capitalizing on the demand for education and certification for those in the ‘business’ who are not full-service tobacconists, this degree serves lounges, mobile/event businesses, media, restaurants and golf clubs and everyone in between.  Our CCST School is the first program we placed behind a paywall and allows custom branding and configuration for individuals or companies with many employees and locations.  It is a streamlined distillation of our broader curriculum and it focuses on creating knowledgeable and competent premium cigar service professionals.  Click here to learn more about the CCST program.

"The success of the CCST program took us by surprise.  We were always so focused on full-service tobacconists that we didn't realize the massive growth and demand in the cigar-centric space.  The need for credibility and education was real and the CCST has become our fastest growing certification." - Armenteros

2020 Certified Cigar Reviews Is Born & The Tobacconist Handbook Is Updated
After 'perfecting' the online educational and certification programs for professionals and consumers, the TU focus turns to creating post-graduation value for certified tobacconists.  The Certified Cigar Reviews (CCR) platform allows users to create comprehensive reviews for online sharing and printable options like shelf-talkers.  Most importantly, CCR educates and empowers users and viewers by defining terms and creating a professional structure for an admittedly subjective process. 

"By the mid-2010s, the internet is proliferating with cigar reviewers providing their own opinions.  We believe tobacconists are the ultimate reviewers since they do it all day long, face-to-face with customers.  This leads us to create (over the course of 4 years) the CCR platform.  In the process, we realize the need to create post-graduation value and leverage for our certified professionals and consumers.  How can we help certified tobacconists? becomes our new focus." - Armenteros

The Tobacconist Handbook: An Essential Guide To Cigars & Pipes is upgraded, updated, enhanced, improved and re-released by Skyhorse Publishing.  Sales continue to surpass all expectations and reach consumers and professionals around the world.  Take a look here...


2020 CIGARS 101 Introduced
Our CIGARS 101 program was released outside of the TU website on a modern learning platform; this experiment is part of our long term plan to potentially move part or all of our certifications onto more technologically advanced and responsive platforms.  CIGARS 101 is also intended to create a strong educational/knowledge foundation for all levels of consumers.  Click here to learn more.

2021 CCST Maestro Released
Compelled by the growth and success of the Certified Cigar Sommelier Tobacconist (CCST) program, the CCST Maestro program is introduced.  This historic program empowers CCST Maestro to certify others for profit while administering their own CCST School.

"While still in its infancy, this program will change everything!  The CCST Maestro gives certified tobacconists the plug and play ability to educate and certify their own customers while profiting from the process.  Helping tobacconists profit through education is an unbelievable dream come true! " - Armenteros

2022 Benchmark Cigars Database Is Born
The dream of Certified Cigar Reviews (CCR) was stunted by a worldwide pandemic and a garbage-in/garbage-out problem:  reviewers were overburdened by having to input too much cigar data.  This led us to create the Benchmark Cigars Database, which allows manufacturers/distributors to upload their cigars into the CCR platform for free: then users can create reviews in just seconds!  Populating the Benchmark Cigars Database in the Certified Cigar Reviews website started in the Summer of 2022 and will continue into the foreseeable future.

"This project has nearly killed me physically and financially, but the hardest part is now behind us.  The technology and database we have created are the foundation for projects we will be releasing in the near future: projects which benefit all professionals and consumers but especially help Certified Retail Tobacconists compete.  So stay tuned as we roll out exciting new developments in 2023 and beyond." - Armenteros

2023 And Beyond
TUECOM, Online Career Center, educational content improvement, deeper discounts for retail tobacconists and many more things are in development…  Stay tuned….

"It is difficult to put an exact date on the birth of Tobacconist University, so I have chosen, partly for sentimental reasons, September, 8 of 1997; by then we were certifying professional tobacconists and consumers.  Looking back, it has been a wild ride and I feel like we have accomplished the impossible.  Despite the blood, sweat, dollars and tears, it has been worth every sacrifice.  As I look back, I am proud to say that we have accomplished everything we set out to do and layed a strong foundation for an extraordinary future... It feels strange to say, but I definitely feel like we are just getting started!" - Armenteros

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Tobacconist Handbook - Updated Edition: Ushering In A New Era Of Professionalism


More than ten years after the initial publication and after more than a year of 2020 related delays, The Tobacconist Handbook Updated Edition is here.  This new edition features enhanced images, glossary, tasting content and is available at a fraction of the original cost.  This is a must have for every retail tobacconist and lover of the leaf: available wherever books are sold!


Barnes & Noble

Skyhorse Publishing