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From the Farm to the Factory

Once these precious leaves have been given adequate time to cure, in the large barns mentioned in my previous blog, they are finally ready to leave the plantations. At this point responsibility for the wellbeing of the tobacco transfers to the Empresa de Acopio y Beneficio del Tabaco, or the ‘organisation for the gathering and improvement of tobacco’ to give it it’s English name. Their first job is to tie the leaves into gavillas (bunches) and transfer them to the sorting houses (or Escogida), to begin their first fermentation treatment and undergo the first classification process.

When the leaves arrive at the Escogida they are placed in large, loosely piled mounds and covered over with damp cloth. As always, the emphasis through out this process is on natural methods and removing impurities.

It is perhaps at this point that the tobacco begins to be recognisable as the same leaves that go into making the cigars we see in shops and restaurants. However, looks can be deceptive and it will take a lot more time, attention and no little skill before the tobacco passes all of the tests and requirements necessary that will make it worthy of bearing the Habanos name.

The smell in these fermentation areas can be pretty overwhelming for the uninitiated and has the acrid aroma of ammonia. You can almost smell the leaves expelling the impurities and acidity. Having conducted training trips to Cuba for over a decade it is not uncommon for some of the more sensitive or delicate members of the group to choose to stay no more than a few moments in the area before heading outside for some fresh air.

The leaves grown higher up the plant such as the Ligero and Seco will need a longer period of fermentation because they are larger more robust leaves that are richer in oils and therefore stronger and less palatable. This first fermentation process will mellow many of these harsher characteristics. Once these leaves have been left for between twenty-five and thirty days they are ready for their first classification and then on to the stripping barns… but that will have to wait for my next blog.

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