Harversting the tobacco leaves
Tobacco was in Cuba long before Columbus arrived. It came from South America and was known to have medicinal properties. They used to chew, twist and smoke it for different purposes.
As soon as the first scouts sent by Columbus went into the island of Cuba, they realised the value of their findings and brought back the tobacco leaf and seeds. Such a product was unknown by Europeans and it quickly became a controversial subject. It was not only brought to Europe by the Spaniard but also spread out to the rest of the world: China, Australia, Africa, and many other civilisations.
Even after over 400 years of modern discovery and attempts to reproduce the Cuban quality, the Cuban tobacco remains in a league of its own. Recognised by smokers as the best of the best, the conditions found in Cuba are unique to the plant: the soil, the humidity, the weather, everything is just right for this plant to be grown and dried properly.
First Cuban tobacco imported to Europe was grown from Tabaco Negro Cubano seed, the beginning of the 20th century witnessed the development of new seeds that are more resistant to disease and have more leaves: Habanesis, Criollo, Corojo, Habana 2000, Criollo 98,and the latest Habano 2006,.
Only few regions are considered good enough to grow tobacco for Habanos cigar. There are 3 main regions: Patrido, Remedios and Pinar Del Rio that include zones the Semi Vuelta and the famous Vuelta Abajo the best Cuban soil that grows all type of leafs. And there is a fourth region the Vuelta Arriba that grows tobacco but not for Habanos.
Plantation and Harvesting
Tobacco in Cuba is grown in two ways, sun grown or shade grown.
Shade grown is used to grow wrapper leaves as the muslin cover filters sunlight and traps heat. The leaves that are shade grown will grow larger and thinner, we distinguish 9 types of leafs going from the lighter colour wrapper (bottom of the plant) to the darkest (top of the plant): Mananita, Libre De Pie, Uno Y Medio, Primer Centro Ligero, Primer Centro Fino, Segundo Centro Fino, Centro Gordo and Corona .
Sun grown tobacco on the other hand is used to grow the filler and binder leaves, we distinguish four types of leafs: Volado, Seco, Ligero and Medio Tiempo. They will determine the flavours, aromas and blends of the Habano cigars.
Starting in September of each year, it takes about 9 months to harvest a tobacco field including land preparation, seeding, growing and harvest. Seeds are grown about 50 days externally before being planted out by hand in a pre-conditioned field fertilised with organic matter. The plant is then checked 172 times to maintain a perfect growth. After 40 days, a new harvesting cycle starts with the bottom of the plant and then up. This cycle lasts 30 days until the last and rare Medio Tiempo leaf are being picked up.
Once harvested, the leaves need to be cured 50 days in a specific barn. They are put together in bunches and placed on suspended wooden logs to air-dry. Once cured, wrappers leaves are rested for about 15 days before being shipped to factories in bundles. The filler and binder leaves have to be fermented for 30 to 50 days before their central vein is taken out and shipped to warehouses or factories. Farmers then get ready for a new plantation.