CIGAR FUNDAMENTALSCigar Production
We have previously covered the different types of tobacco, but even grown with the best possible conditions, each one of them is harmful when smoked before being processed first. When leaves are initially picked from a plant by the farmers, they are all green and contain an array of toxic substances. Smoking raw tobacco is not just unhealthy but also unpleasant as the leaf has not yet released the aroma and flavours. We will cover the main processes required to get the most out of both so that smoking becomes enjoyable.
The first thing in the production cycle is drying the tobacco leaves. At cigar world is known as Curado ( from Spanish ), which means Curing. The process involves three steps. Tieing the leaves into bunches, hanging them to dry and finally, eliminating the light sources to stop photosynthesis.
The last step is critical because when there are no more nutrients produced, the plant starts to destroy its reserves. Furthermore, breaking down complex compounds such as chlorophyll, proteins, carbohydrates, and starches. As a result, the chemicals irritating to a smoker weaken. The lack of chlorophyll changes the colour of the leaf from green to brown. The longer the drying is, the darker the leaf becomes.
The accepted drying methods are sun drying, air drying, fire drying and KILN drying. Each of those comes with benefits and drawbacks.
Sun drying and over-fire drying are well-liked in pipe tobacco production. They are slower but more merciful and preserve the qualities of tobacco. The over-fire method even adds a smoky flavour.
KILN is the most aggressive and quickest of all. It takes only 2 - 4 days due to the high heat and kills all of the natural flavour and aroma. To compensate, producers urge to add artificial flavours. KILN is typically used in mass-produced cigarettes.
The longest and preferred method for cigar production is the air drying method. It requires large drying houses or la casa del tobacco positioned east to west. They should also comply with other condition requirements such as keeping the temperature about 28℃-29℃ and humidity between 75%-85%. Their special position - east to the west allows them to benefit from Northern ( dry and cold ) and Southern (warm and damp) winds. On top of that, the building should have huge doors and windows to manage the airflow.
Fermentation is the second necessary procedure in the production of a cigar. As a general rule, it takes two stages, but some manufacturers like to do a final third one.
The first fermentation takes place in the drying house, and it takes around 30 days. The leaves are sorted into binders, fillers and wrappers and transported in centro de benefico for the second part of the fermentation.
Theoretically, both parts can be done in the drying houses, but the Cuban state requires the manufacturers to move the tobacco into these designated places, where an expert can follow the process thoroughly.
When the leaves are stacked in piles, the airflow is drastically reduced, which increases the humidity. Furthermore, the microorganisms find the right environment and start "working" the leaves. During fermentation, it is crucial to keep the right temperature so that the process goes smoothly. If the temperature is too high, the leaves will overheat. As a prevention, the leaves are monitored closely, and if the temperature is getting high they are shuffled.
It is not so clear when the fermentation process should stop. There are a couple of methods the experts use: if the temperature stops rising or if the ammonium is released, then the process is near the end. In addition, the smell and the appearance of the leaves are regularly checked to confirm the process has been completed.
The fermentation usually lasts from 45 to 60 days. If it prolongs after two months it loses all of the beneficial effects, and the flavour is dying. On the other hand, if the process stops prematurely it is not that terrible.
Ageing is a continuation of fermentation. Similar to alcohol, tobacco needs a lot of time to mature. And the longer it is left, the better it tastes. This effect is due to the microorganism destroying oxygen from the tobacco molecules, but due to the lower temperature and humidity, this is a slower process than fermentation.
The palm tree leaves add extra aroma and flavour and are used as a wrapper for the tobacco piles. Furthermore, the pile needs to stay in a place with a temperature between 18℃-19℃. This process releases moisture and ammonium, and it takes up to 5-6 years.
Due to the high demand nowadays, the ageing process is reduced to 6-12 months. Only premium or limited cigars are aged for extended periods. There is a way you could age your cigars with the help of a humidor. You could patiently wait a few years and get the most out of your cigars.