A cuban tobacco farmer plowing his land with two cows in front of the plough. It feels like a time jump into the past.
Growing tobacco is hard work. It’s harder than growing i.e. corn, potatoes or grain. That’s because the farmer has to prepare his patch first with the plough and saw the seeds. But, he also has to go in his patch every day to cut the blossoms and pick unwanted leaves. It reminded me to the wine growers work.
Everything is done by manual work. Ploughs and carriages are pulled by oxen. We didn’t see any machine in the fields.
Last week I wrote about how I met two tobacco farmers and showed a few photos. I also told about the process how to prepare the tobacco leaves for making cigars. Today I continue on this.
In the photo above, you can see a tobacco patch to the left and a drying house in the back, where the leaves are hung up for drying. The process for creating a cigar from the dry leaves is quite simple as you can see from the gallery at the bottom of this post. Young and soft leaves are in the core, wrapped by older and bigger leaves. The cover leave is wrapped outside and glued with a fluid.
Each leave is cut along the finning (leaf vein). The vein is never used for cigars. The vein is the part of the leaf with the highest level of nicotine and other chemicals that make smoking so dangerous. On the other hand, for cigarettes the whole leaves are shredded, so that a cigarette is more dangerous for one’s health than smoking a cigar.
At last the ready cigars were put into the wooden form for a few weeks to make them resistant against self dissolving. But, you could also start to smoke one at once, if you want to.
As I mentioned in my last post, we also visited tobacco farmers. One got the patches from his father 5 years ago, when his father was 80 years old and too old to do that work anymore. He told us much about producing cigars, while the other one showed us, how to assemble a cigar. The farmers get the seeds from the government. They grow the plants and when they get a certain hight, the start to harvest the first leaves, those at the bottom. They become the outer cover sheet. Later the plants start blooming and the blooms have to be cut and given back to the government. Also, the government get’s 80% of the dried leaves, while the farmers are allowed to keep the remaining 20% for their own use. This is the source for the cigar sellers in the cities I mentioned earlier.
The government operated fabrics assemble their cigars by using leaves from different growing places (full sun, part shadow or shadow), different tobacco species and different farms. The leave ware not only hung up for drying, they also voted by certain marinade for the fermentation process. Each farmer has his own secret receipt for this marinade. On the other hand, the leaves of farmers cigars are all from their own patches. That’s why cigars from different brands have different tastes.
On the table in the above photo you can see the tools needed for assembling a cigar, 3 ready cigars and a few roles / bundles of farmer’s cigars covered by a thin layer of wood as a very basic variant of humidor. In the background you can see many bunches of drying tobacco leaves, as we are in the drying house at the moment. Here in the drying house you have a very distinct smell of fall, autumn foliage and cigar boxes (as I remember from my grandfathers cigar boxes) or tobacco shops. The smell of cigars is already there, but it also smells like fall, when the trees lost their leaves, that are laying on the ground and start drying and fouling. Although, the tobacco leaves won’t start fouling, but drying.
Next week, I’ll focus on the patches and the work outside.