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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Educating Consumers Is Serious Business: A Letter From The President

Jorge Armenteros, CMT
President & Founder
Tobacconist University

I have been educating consumers since 1995 and certifying them since 1997.  In 2006 TU became the official educational curriculum of the RTDA/IPCPR/PCA, all the while educating consumers as well as tobacconists.  By 2015 we developed our own proprietary online exam platform for consumers: we made that available to retail tobacconists in 2018.  We know that the most important educators in this industry are retail tobacconists.  

Retail tobacconists are the only professionals who hand sell cigars to consumers face-to-face, every day and night:  not one single cigar maker, blogger, online cigar reviewer, youtube personality, or social media loud mouth can say that.  

Retail tobacconists are the infantry, backbone, keystone, and soul of the luxury tobacco industry.  

Educating consumers is the ultimate competitive advantage for a retail tobacconist and the lifeblood of our industry.  Any moron can buy a product for a buck and sell it for two, but successful tobacconists add value, build loyalty and enhance the customer's experience.  A retailer's education and ability to educate are the difference between success and failure. This principle is timeless and more important than ever before.  

The internet provides opportunities for people to get information, both good and bad.  Sadly, the internet and social media provide as much good education as bad information.  While there was a ton of bad information on the net 20 years ago, there seems to be exponentially more today.  The problem is only exacerbated by bad information being reprinted and repeated by the uneducated.  

Fortunately, the buck stops at TU.  While there are some cigar education websites, blogs, and social media groups that have popped up over the years, nothing comes close to our content and curriculum.  

I make it my business to see what kind of information is being offered on the internet and I rarely say anything critical, even when I probably should.  Nobody elected me fact checker of the industry, so I shut my mouth and keep my nose to the grindstone.  I think time and substance will separate the wheat from the chaff.  Plus, over one thousand certifications through TU and 25% growth in the last year is proof of progress and success.  Yet, I wonder if I should speak up more?  Just this week I "learned" 'cellophane is plastic', 'boiled water is the same as distilled', and 98% of people on facebook smoke mold thinking it is plume.  There are thousands of new and impressionable consumers learning stupid things every day.    

I know there are many good information sources on the net but the stupidity of pseudo-experts has become a cancer.  I encourage all those with a passion for luxury tobacco to venture out and find voices that they like and can relate to, but don't assume everyone knows what they are talking about.  And just because something gets repeated doesn't mean it's true.  Please check your facts before parroting them!    

Always remember certified tobacconists are there for you and the TU curriculum (Tobacco College, Accoutrements College, Taste College, Service College, FAQs, Glossary) is yours to reference: just use the search bar at the top of every page!  I know it's not a sexy magazine or blog, but it is the most solid and comprehensive resource on the internet for consumers and tobacconists.

You need a bulletproof knowledge foundation to take your passion to the next level.

Our academic curriculum has always been open and available to anyone for free!  We do not require your email address, personal information, or money to give you access.  We take great pride in offering our substance for free.  We would never force an advertisement down your throat, plug a product for money, or ask you to pay to see our academic curriculum.  Furthermore, paywalls are bulls**t.  Don't trust people who ask you to pay for information that is freely available.  And if you do, don't expect much.  Either go where the pros go or expect to be a hack.

If you have high expectations and you want the first and finest education and credibility, then please visit the Tobacconist University website and look into our Certified Consumer Tobacconist (CCT) program.  This is the ultimate proof of knowledge and credibility.  

PS: In addition to our free academic curriculum, you can see all of our certified tobacconists on the TU website.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Certified Cigar Reviews: Beta-Testing

After more than a decade in development (#operationgoldenmonkey), we are announcing our most revolutionary program ever: Certified Cigar Reviews (CCR).  We present you with the world's first cigar review platform made for you - fully integrated/hyperlinked with our academic curriculum, and searchable, readable, shareable (e.g. social media), and printable (e.g. shelf talkers & spec sheets) by anyone and everyone.  


The CCR homepage displays snapshots of reviews done by CRT: just click on the pic and you will see the full review.  Each Certified Cigar Review is organized by Cigar Specs, Component Data, Pre-Smoke, Smoke and Post-Smoke.  Reviews include objective and subjective criteria like aesthetics, construction, flavor (taste+aroma), spice, strength, body and smoking conditions.  Facts, sensations, impressions and opinions are documented, aggregated, evaluated, processed and displayed on a graphically rich web page which can be shared, printed and/or saved by anyone in the world.  Additionally, pairing and tasting notes can be included with every review.  Reviews are searchable by a nearly infinite array of variables, including brands, vitola, country of origin, wrapper, year of creation, CRT Reviewer, most recent, highest rating, etc...

But this is just the beginning.  We are just scratching the surface of the potential and value that Certified Cigar Reviews will provide!  Ultimately, the Certified Cigar Reviews platform will be available to all lovers of luxury tobacco.  In that process we will empower individuals to create comprehensive reviews for themselves and to share with the world.  

We are inviting our Certified Retail Tobacconists (CRT) to sign up and prepare to help us test the new platform before we open it to the public.  
To our CRT, this is an invitation to participate in the creation of the world's first, most revolutionary and substantive cigar review system ever.  If you are interested in lending your expertise and continuing to be a pioneer in the luxury tobacco industry, visit our new website and sign up to be a Certified Cigar Reviewer.  

CRT should sign up now!  We will be putting together our team during September and testing during the Fall with the intent to open the full site to the public before winter.  Sign up on the Certified Cigar Review website now!    

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Succinct Critique Of The Cigar Review Industry

Cigar reviews and ratings attract eyeballs - both on the internet and through magazines.  Furthermore, cigar reviews and ratings drive sales with online cigar vendors and retail tobacconists.  It is indisputable that Cigar Aficionado pioneered the cigar review with their 100 point scale in the early 1990's and in doing so they transformed the premium cigar industry.  Since then, there have been countless consumer and trade magazines following their lead, creating their own versions of ratings and reviews.  The internet has also provided innumerable opportunities for companies and consumers to post their own reviews, both in written and video form.  Today, there are so many review blogs, websites, and social media channels that it can be overwhelming to both newbies and professionals.  Unfortunately, quantity does not equal quality.  There are good and bad reviewers; people who know things and communicate well and those that don't.  On a positive note, if you find reviews that 'speak to you', that you can relate to, that you understand, then you will find your appreciation of premium cigars enhanced.

A good review will expand your product knowledge and enhance your experience - a great accomplishment!  From a business perspective, the rewards of a good review are even better because they drive sales and that is what motivates companies.

Money Bias
Our reference to the "Cigar Review Industry" in the title of this article is important to note.  Many reviewers on the internet and in magazines receive free products and/or advertising money.  This creates an unavoidable conflict of interest.  Money and relationships influence reviews.

Rating System Dissonance
In the wine and cigar industry, the 100 point scale seems contrived because you get 50 to 70 points just for being a wine or cigar - that seems silly.  Other review platforms use a five star system like yelp or amazon, and that too has its limitations.  Simply put, we probably wouldn't smoke a cigar that rated a 70 or 3.5 stars, but that is a shame, because a 7 out of 10 is well above 'middle of the road'.    

Taste & Price Conundrum
Always remember taste is subjective and everyone's palate and preferences are different.  Similarly, price is a relative concept.  One person's everyday twenty dollar cigar is another's unattainable dream.  We all view money differently, so that plays a role in how we value and evaluate a cigar.   

Ecosystem Inclination
Once you start following certain reviews and they have served you well, you will tend to stick with those.  Your favorite facebook group, mail order company, or youtube review channel may be limiting your options or opportunity to learn about other cigars.  They may also be perpetuating misinformation and biases.  The reviews you follow may have limitations that you are not aware of.  They exist in a very narrow bandwidth of a large industry.  Just consider that there are thousands of cigars on the market and one, two or three reviewers couldn't begin to do justice to all those products.  

Educational Perspective
This issue is very much in the TU wheelhouse... you don't know what you don't know!  There are too many reviewers misusing words like strength, body, and spice; many don't know what a maduro is; and still others can't properly cut a cigar.  The improper use of language and words without establishing fundamental definitions destroys the value of a review, but you wouldn't know that if you don't have a fundamental education.

In an effort to be brief, we will let this article come to an end... consider it a breadcrumb foreshadowing a revolution in tasting, reviewing, and cigar ratings... coming soon...


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The CCT Challenge - 2019 (UPDATED)

While our Certified Consumer Tobacconist (CCT) program continues to grow at a record pace, we would like to stimulate a little fun and competition.  Our goal is to reach 500 CCT by the end of 2019.  If we reach that goal by year end we are going to give our 500 CCT a very extraordinary, but TOP SECRET gift.  While we cannot tell you what the prize will be, we can tell you that it has been in development for over a decade, it will be extremely exclusive, valuable, and revolutionary.  In addition, other consumers will have to pay for the product after it is released, and our 500 CCT will be making history.  We suggest you hurry up and get your CCT Degree, and encourage your friends to do so as well.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you will not regret!

Become a Certified Consumer Tobacconist Now

UPDATE  8.30.2019  
The TOP SECRET gift for our CCT 
is FREE access to our Certified Cigar Reviews platform.  We will notify all CCT via email when the site is ready.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Tobacco Business Magazine Article

We appreciate this excellent article in Tobacco Business Magazine by Antoine Reid.  This link will take you to the full article.  There is a lot of insight, history, and new news!  This is a great way to wrap up 2018 and we can promise you 2019 will be our greatest yet!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Online CRT Final Exam

After more than twenty years of educating and certifying tobacconists and administering paper exams with a proctor, we are announcing our most historic and revolutionary service ever:

Now, all CRT Apprentices can take the final exam on the TU website.  

Gone are the days of waiting for a CST to visit your store (if you were lucky enough to have one in your area), or paying $100 for a skype exam (and coordinating your schedule around a convenient time), or traveling to our offices in Princeton, NJ, or waiting for the annual tradeshow and wasting valuable time that could be spent with your vendors: now you can take the final exam at your convenience online!

Our new online exams feature 100 varying and improved multiple choice questions, instantaneous grading, immediate conversion of your listing to "certified" and rotation on our homepage, and a diploma you can print yourself if you pass!   In addition, you can purchase the exam and take it whenever you are ready - there is no time limit or expiration date as long as you remain an apprentice with your company.  However, once you have paid for the exam and log in to take it, you must finish it.

Take note, the final exam price is $50 and it is a one time only, non-refundable fee.  We strongly recommend you study the Final Exam Review links featured on the right side of this blog so you don't fail.  Lastly, for security purposes, the apprentice who will be taking the exam must be the person to purchase it because login credentials will be required.  If you are interested in making a bulk purchase for multiple apprentices/employees, please contact TU via

Friday, October 13, 2017

The History Of Cigars: The Rite Of Tobacco (Cohoba)

In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the new world. During his first contact with the Taino Indians (indigenous tribes that inhabited the Caribbean islands), he noticed, as he described on his navigational diary #85, transcribed by Spanish historian Bartolome de las Casas, to have seen these indigenous with a “tizon” (Like a branding iron) in their hands, made of dry leaves (buncher), and wrapped in other dry leaves (Wrapper) in the shape of a musket, lit on one end, and sucking from the other end, inhaling the smoke. This object, wrote Columbus, we will name the same as the Taino called them, “Tabaco”. These leaves were given to Columbus as valuable gifts, among others, like gold, spices, exotic fruit, etc., on his return trip, to be presented to the Queen of Spain as proof that he had discovered the new world. It wasn’t until their later voyages that Spaniards discovered that the Taino Indians smoked for pleasure, but most importantly, for religious purposes. The tobacco had a powerful spiritual meaning, and through a ceremony called “The Rite of Cohoba” (The Rite of Tobacco), it played a major roll on the social and economic structure of the aboriginal Taino tribes.


The Rite of Tobacco was a powerful, spiritual, sacred, and religious ceremony among all the Taino tribes. The BEHIKE (witch doctor) would sit on his DUJO (ancestral ceremonial seat or throne) to inhale COHIBA/COHOBA. He would smoke and inhale TOBACCO to induce a trance to achieve communication with their ancestors that resided in COABEY (Paradise) to plead for health, protection, to assign which members of the tribes would be hunting, harvesting, and even to consult about matrimonial unions, to make sure that everything was done with the approval of the ancestors. During their ritual, they used CUEY (sacred objects or semis carved out of stone or sacred wood). It has been speculated that Taino used the bioluminicence ink of the CUCUBANO (Taino indian word for a click beetle-Pyrophorus Luminosus) to paint their bodies to glow under the moon light during their religious rituals, performed mostly at night. 


Over the years, I have dedicated a big part of my time, visiting and sharing experiences in numerous cigar lounges around the U.S. I have noticed elements that repeat themselves, like a pattern, that are unbelievably common. Cigar lounges are frequented by a multitude of people of different backgrounds, who share their time in the same room, enjoying a cigar. These people come from different cultural, economic, religious, and educational levels. I have seen a successful lawyer, a handyman, a brain surgeon, a pizza delivery guy, a retired FBI agent, and a school teacher (quite diverse, right?) and no matter what the topic of conversation is they are always determined, far from arguing, to finding common ground between the different points of view on the subject of discussion. Always sitting back, having fun, and most importantly, relaxing. It is interesting, but I have never seen anyone smoking a cigar under stress. This general, but very common bond, among cigar smokers sharing the pleasure of smoking a premium cigar, always and inevitably reminds me of the origin and the reasons why the aboriginal Tainos saw the tobacco as the ideal element for reflection, spirituality, and peace. In conclusion, there are a few words from the Taino indian dictionary connected to the Rite of
TABACO (Tobacco)
COHIBA (Cohoba)
BEHIKE (witch doctor)
DUJO (ceremonial seat or throne)
COABEY (paradise)
CUEY (sacred object)
CUCUBANO (click beetle)

Author:  Eloy at Southern Classic Cigars
Images By: Jose Martinez