The cigar industry is one of the biggest in the world, and it is worth billions of dollars, but there is a process involved before the raw leaves become the cigars that you pick up from your local cigar shop. This piece is on how the product moves from the cigar manufacturer to the stores where all the customers can buy – it is an interesting journey.
The main raw material used in the manufacture of the cigar is the leaf of the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum). This plant is seen in different nations, but the highest-quality tobacco leaves are the ones from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Different parameters are used in gauging the quality of tobacco leaves.
After the harvesting of the leaves, they have to be cured so that they have their unique aroma. Curing of the leaves is done when they are transformed from the soft, green, and fresh leaves to dried and crusty leaves. During the process of curing, the chlorophyll in the leaves is replaced with carotene. The harvested leaves are also hung on strips of wood to dry in what is called air curing. Heat can also be used to cure the leaves in what is called flue-curing.
Fermentation is the stage that follows the curing. The cured leaves are sorted based on colour and size and are then tied into bundles. These bundles of tobacco leaves are stored for anything from six months to as long as five years for proper fermentation.
When the fermentation is going on, the taste and aroma of the leaves develop. The fermentation of cigar tobacco takes a longer time than the other kinds of tobacco. For the most excellent cigars like the famous Romeo and Juliet cigars, the fermentation takes anything from two years to as much as five years. When the fermentation is complete, there is a need for experienced workers to select the leaves again manually.
Stripping is the next stage, and it is typically done using a machine. In some cases, the stripped leaves may be made to undergo more fermentation, but once all is clear, shipping in bales can be done. Before the leaves are set for manufacture to cigars, steaming can be done again to regain some humidity, which is then followed with some sorting.
Hand rolling follows stripping, and this is a highly-skilled work, and an amateur roller can take up to a year or more before he or she can know how to roll the cigar leaves properly. The filler has to be arranged neatly in such a way that the cigar is going to burn smoothly. Hand rolling of cigars is typically done in small industries, with each worker doing the rolling.
After the rolling is the most difficult stage, which is the wrapping, it is at this stage that the worker makes use of a special knife to remove all irregular substances from the filler. Then machine rolling follows, which is then followed by finishing and packaging. The packaged cigars are then sent out for distribution to different stores all over the place where customers can buy.