The Habano, the Cuban cigar, is considered by cigar lovers as the rolls royce of cigars.
Which regions produce them? How are they made? How to smoke your cigars like Che Guevara? We explain you all!
Small lexicon of the Cuban cigars
- The filler: the filler corresponds to the interior of the cigar.
It is formed of various types of leaves coming from the foot, the medium and the top of the tobacco plants.
- The under binder: the under binder is made up of tobacco leaves in which the filler will be wrapped.
- The wrapper: the wrapper is the tobacco leaf that forms the outer shell of the cigar.
- The head: the closed side of the cigar that is cut when smoking it.
It is the side that is put in the mouth when smoking the cigar.
- The foot: the end of the cigar that is lit.
Tobacco producing regions in Cuba
Cuban cigars are produced in 4 regions of the island:
- La Vuelta Abajo, in the Province of Pinar del Río, where the famous Viñales Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is located
- La Semi-Vuelta, between Pinar del Río and Havana
- Partido, southeast of Havana
- La Vuelta Arriba, in the Province of Remedios and in Oriente, north and east of Santiago de Cuba
Three major periods of the year punctuate tobacco cultivation in Cuba:
from June to August, the fields are plowed.
In the region of Viñales, agriculture is still traditional and not mechanized.
It is therefore with ploughs pulled by oxen that the peasants plough the fields.
September to November is the sowing period.
The tobacco seeds are planted in September.
The tobacco plants are then transplanted in November.
They mature in December.
December to March is the harvest.
The tobacco leaves are harvested by hand by the “vegueros”, the tobacco farmers.
It is a long and tedious work.
Drying, fermentation and aging of the leaves
Once harvested, the tobacco leaves are tied in pairs and dried in the open air on “cujes”, wooden poles.
This stage takes place in “Casas de Tabaco”, wooden buildings topped with a roof of palms.
Depending on whether the leaves are destined for the tripe or the cape, the drying time varies between 25 and 50 days.
After drying, there are one or two fermentations that can last from 25 to 90 days.
Some leaves are then dehusked, that is to say that the central vein is removed.
Finally comes the ageing stage.
The leaves are thus packed in small bundles made of royal palm bark.
They will remain there for 6 months to 2 years.
The making of Cuban cigars
Once the leaves are aged, the torcedor, the worker who makes the cigars, finally comes into play! The leaves are first peeled (the central vein is removed) and then sorted.
The torcedor then selects the leaves that will form the filler and wraps them in the wrapper.
This “doll” is rolled up in a mold, or a simple sheet of paper for artisanal factories.
After 20 minutes to 1 hour in the mold, the torcedor rolls the doll in the wrapper, the cigar’s external envelope, by putting a dot of glue (or honey).
In the artisanal factories, the Cuban cigars then make a small turn in a mould… then they are finally ready to be smoked!
Smoke the cigar like Che Guevara
To soften the flavors of the cigar, Che Guevara always soaked the head of it with a little bit of honey.
We also tested… and approved!
Buy your Cuban cigars
It is quite natural to want to bring back Cuban cigars from your trip in Cuban lands.
You will find handmade cigars in the numerous factories of the Viñales Valley.
Otherwise, the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás of Havana sells cigars of big brands.
To know more about it, you can have a look at our article on souvenirs to bring back from Cuba.
But be careful! The quantity of cigars you can bring back from Cuba is limited.
Do not hesitate to consult our dedicated article to know everything about the restrictions at the Cuban customs.
Once back home with your cigars in hand, be vigilant.
To preserve the quality of your cigars for a long time, you will have to keep them in optimal conditions (hygrometry rate of about 70%, temperature between 20 and 22°C).
The ideal is to invest in a humidor with a humidifier.
There is a wide range of humidors, depending on the capacity, the type of humidifier, etc.
You will find what you need here.
To go further
If all this information is not enough for you and you are dying to know more about Cuban cigars, we recommend the book: The Cigar Encyclopedia.