Air curing, naturally
Following on from my previous post “Cuban Wrappers” – the freshly harvested tobacco leaves are taken to curing barns (casas de tabaco) for the slow and careful period of air curing. This removes moisture and turns the leaf by stages to golden brown. The leaves are sewn in pairs and hung from poles which are then placed on racks in the barn. As the leaf cures the pole is raised higher in the racks.
The ventilation and light must be constantly monitored to allow for the natural changes in temperature and humidity. The leaves will spend around 50 days in the barn before they are ready to move to the next stage of their long journey.
A fully laden curing barn is really quite an experience. When you first enter these wooden shacks you are engulfed by a “sea of Cuban tobacco”, wave after wave of thousands of Cuban leaves that appear to literally crash over your head and swallow you whole…drowning by tobacco…albeit the finest in the world!!
But then your imagination sobers up and reality returns and you realise upon closer inspection that each “wave” is in fact made up of individual tobacco leaves that have been meticulously positioned to ensure the success of the air curing process for each of the precious leaves. However, it can get quite disorientating if you “leave the path”. I did just this and spent a good couple of minutes searching for a “dot of sun light” to guide me back to the entrance.