The Life of a Leaf

Most of us know what we like and expect in a cigar. Taste, aroma, smoke… These are all the things that make each cigar unique. But what is it that gives us those differences?

The Leaf.

Tobacco leaves are grown all over the world, in both the southern and northern hemispheres. Location, weather, soil, and moisture all go into creating the different characteristics of each type of tobacco.

It takes about 60 days from the raw seed to become a seedling, ready to be planted. The seeds of the plant are incredibly tiny, and easy to smuggle. Tobacco farms furiously guard their seeds and seedlings, as the process of farming the plant is time, labor, and financially intensive.

From the seedling phase, growth really takes off. It takes only 2 months for that seedling to become a mature plant, the height of which is determined by the type of plant. Once the plant is fully matured, it is time for harvesting. But unlike many other crops, the harvest is more involved than the planting.

A mature tobacco plant is divided into sections, each having their own unique characteristics. The bottom 10% (approximately) is called Volado, and is the most mild in flavor and body. The next 50% of the plant is called Seco, and the top 40% is the Ligero, which has the most body, complexity, and flavor of the whole plant.

These sections are then further divided into primings, which is where 3 leaves from each section are harvested.

As you can see, there is far more to growing and harvesting tobacco than just planting seeds and tearing off leaves. It is part science, and a better part art.

Next we’ll examine the curing, fermenting, and aging processes and look into what it takes to make the final premium cigar.

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