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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

CIGARS 101.5: Agriculture

Cigar tobaccos are classified as dark air-cured; unlike cigarette and pipe tobaccos which are light tobaccos.  As you will learn, dark air-cured tobaccos are extremely difficult to cultivate, grow, harvest and process.  Dark air-cured tobaccos are akin to raising award winning rare orchids while light tobacco farming is more like growing a cash crop of lettuce.

While tobacco is grown as far north as Canada and as far south as New Zealand, the greatest cigar tobacco growing region on earth is located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° North and South of the Equator, respectively).  Cigar tobaccos are grown in very rare micro-climates: specifically, in fertile valleys usually surrounded by mountains where they benefit from nutrient erosion, condensation irrigation, and sunlight manipulation.  

Learn more about cigar tobacco growing regions and countries.

There are a handful of cigar tobacco (dark air-cured) family types which have been curated, hybridized and evolved over generations to grow in certain regions and produce very specialized results.  While all contemporary cigar tobacco varietals originated from a handful of seed families, consumers will be most familiar with these types: Broadleaf, Central Aftrican (or Cameroon), Connecticut, Habano, Sumatra, Piloto Cubano, and Olor Dominicano. 

The journey of every seed that will contribute to a cigar is long and storied, yet relatively similar.  The most impressive plants are selected for seed harvesting, then seeds are planted and germinate in semilleros (green houses).  Next, the baby plants are meticulously cared for and groomed until they are robust enough to be transplanted to a field where they will mature.  The full life cycle of a cigar tobacco plant is between three to four months and there is typically only one crop per year.   See the videos and learn more... 

After transplanting, the plants will be visited daily during their growth and maturation period to be pruned, tested, fertilized, watered and/or inspected.  Plants which are destined to produce wrapper leaves will receive the most attention and care as they must be unblemished.

Shadegrown plants [which will be used for wrapper leaves] will require even more scrutiny and labor than plants which will yield filler and binder leaves.  Shadegrown fields must be covered and bordered with cheesecloth to create the delicate color and flavor profiles expected of shadegrown wrappers.  Some varietals of shadegrown tobacco (ie. Connecticut) will grow so tall that they need to be tied to the cheesecloth superstructure in order to grow straight.  

You will notice in our videos and pictures that every cigar tobacco field is perfectly and meticulously organized, no matter if it is filler, binder or wrapper plants, shadegrown or sungrown, cigar tobacco plants are curated from seed to maturity because the leaves must be perfect as they are the final product and ingredient that will go into your premium cigar.  See the videos and learn more...  

At maturity the leaves of the plants will begin to lay horizontally, indicating that they are ready to be harvested.  At this point, the hard work is just beginning!  Cigar tobacco leaves start maturing at the bottom of the plant and they must be picked two to three at a time over the course of four to six weeks: this process is called priming.  Priming is a herculean task which requires dozens of laborers walking through the fields hand picking leaves and delivering them immediately to air-curing barns.  

Click here to learn more about priming and other harvesting techniques...

After harvesting/priming, the mature tobacco leaves are immediately delivered to air-curing barns, usually located adjacent to the fields...

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