Cultivation and production

Although the tobacco plant is not edible, it is cultivated on a large scale. The scientific name of tobacco is Nicotiana, it comes from the French explorer Jean Nicot. Tobacco belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), as does the tomato, for example. They all also contain nicotine, but only in low concentrations. Characteristic of the tobacco plant is its pyramidal shape, with the larger leaves on the lower part and the smaller leaves on the upper part of the plant. The color of the flowers varies between white and pink.


The best cigar tobaccos in the world grow on the Vegas of the Caribbean island of Cuba in the Vuelta Abajo region, in the Dominican Republic in the Santiago and La Romana regions, in Nicaragua in the Esteli and Jalapa regions, and in Honduras in the Danli region.

Sown in soil as loose as possible are only the best and most resistant seeds. After about 90 days, the tobacco plants reach full maturity in January. For optimal growth, side shoots and flowers are removed so that all the power can flow into the leaves. If all conditions are right, within three months a small seed will turn into a plant up to 2 meters high, yielding a total of 2.3 m² of tobacco.

The main cultivation methods for cigar tobacco are para capas naturales and tabaco del sol ensarto. In the first cultivation method, the tobacco is grown under white tulle veils, which are stretched over the fields immediately after planting. This prevents excessive exposure to light, keeps harmful insects away and protects the seedlings from the wind. The precious wrapper leaves thus retain their silky and even appearance. In the second method, the tobacco is exposed to the sun to obtain a greater variety of flavors.

Harvesting, drying and fermentation

Harvesting begins in January and continues for several weeks. The tobacco leaves are picked by hand in six passes, each of which takes about seven days. Harvesting is done from the bottom up, only two or three leaves per pass. Throughout the harvest process, each plant is inspected an average of 170 times.

After harvesting, tobacco leaves are air-dried in drying sheds, also called curing barns. There, they are attached to wooden poles (cujes) close to the ground with the help of a needle and string and hung higher during the drying process, which lasts about 50 days. The drying sheds face west so that the sun can warm one end of the shed in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Temperature and humidity are controlled by opening and closing the doors at both ends.

The subsequent fermentation of the tobaccos takes place in burros, which are piles of tobacco. During this process, the tobacco leaves are packed together in bundles (gavillas) and piled into stacks. When the temperature of the tobacco rises above 35° Celsius, the stacks are broken up and the leaves are allowed to cool before being piled on top of each other again. During about 30 days of fermentation, the leaves take on a more uniform color, resins are reduced, and ammonia and other unwanted components are eliminated.

After this first fermentation, the main veins of the leaves are removed. The leaves are then sorted according to their intended use, color, size and quality. In the second fermentation, the leaves are again grouped into bundles and inserted into meter-high stacks. The tobacco now undergoes a chemical change that brings out its flavor and aroma to advantage, while the remaining foreign substances are broken down. The second fermentation is stronger than the first and lasts up to 60 days. By the way, the wrapper leaves are fermented the shortest.

So after about 3 months and some rest days on aeration racks, the tobacco is then pressed into bales (tercios), which are wrapped with palm bark or banana leaves. The tercios are stored in warehouses for up to several years until they are needed by the cigar factories. Through storage, the taste and aroma of the tobacco is further refined.


Then, when the time comes and the tobacco leaves are needed for production, the wrapper leaves are moistened and hung overnight. This ensures that the leaves are smooth and supple for processing. The binder and filler, however, do not require humidification in this process. The next day, the despallidores remove the midribs by cutting the tobacco leaves in half. The leaves are then sorted by the sorters (rezagadoras) according to size, color and structure.

The leaves are then taken to the blending department, where the blending process takes place under strict safety precautions. Here, the carefully guarded secret recipes for each brand are kept. The cigar rollers (torcedores) are given blends, which they then roll into finished cigars in the galera. Their workplace is equipped with a wooden table, a sharp blade (chaveta), a guillotine and a pot of plant based glue. A torcedor is able to roll about 120 cigars a day, which perfectly comply with the prescribed lengths and diameters. Samples of his work are regularly inspected by quality controllers. If the cigars are not found to be good, this is a serious matter for the Torcedor, as he is paid by the piece.

From the workstations, the cigars go to the escaparate (climate-controlled room), which is equipped with high cedar shelves. For at least three weeks, sometimes for several months, the cigars are stored here under ideal conditions. The temperature is between 16° C and 18° C and the relative humidity ranges from 65% to 70%.


To achieve a perfect presentation for sale, the Escogedor (color sorter) sorts the finished cigars into 65 different shades of color. A second Escogedor arranges the cigars in a cigar box so that the shades are graded from dark to light from left to right. He also selects the side of the cigar that will present itself to the eye when the box is later opened. The boxes themselves are made of cedar wood so that the cigars can continue to breathe and mature.

Once the cigars are properly arranged, only the anilladora (beringer) takes them out of the boxes to apply the appropriate bands. Under no circumstances should she change the arrangement. In many cases provided with a guarantee seal, the finished cigar boxes are then ready for transport to the recipient country.