The Torcedore's hands
After harvesting and aging tobacco leaves in function of their use, they are shipped to rolling factories in bundles. Airing rooms are provided so that unpacking can be done with care. Moistening is very important to restore the leaves' humidity and avoid breaking them.
Once unpacked, sorters (Tabacuba) classify them by size and colour. This process is called blending and has to follow standards specifically set for each brand and vitola. Master Blenders then choose from the available leaves to produce a blend that will be followed by all rollers.
Rollers are supplied with batches of leaves corresponding to the blend chosen by the Master Blender. Most Cuban cigars are hand-made by Torcedora, very few are made with machines like "cigarillos" or "mini". The roller first takes a binder leafthen rolls the filler leaves within it. He has to make sure to place them correctly aligned to ensure a good draw, and with the lighter flavoured part of the filler at the foot of the cigar.
Once the binder is surrounding the filler, it is placed into a timber mould for shaping where it stays for about 2 hours before enduring a suction draw test. This was done randomly before but is now a routine for each cigar. Once tested, the roller prepares the wrapper leaf by trimming the edges, then places the formed bunch that came out of the mould and rolls it starting at the foot of the cigar. A cap is then fitted and the cigar is cut to the wanted length.
Once rolled, a Cuban cigar goes through an intensive process of fumigation and conditioning to reduce and stabilise moisture but also to avoid the tobacco beetle "Serricorne" eating the cigar. After this process, quality control splits cigars into many categories in function of their length, sizes, weight, ring gauge, construction, etc. Supervisors are expert rollers who even break up certain samples to ensure construction and blends. They also smoke a sample to ensure the character of the vitola is respected.