According to historic records, the world's first cigars were rolled by native Cubans. Christopher Columbus first encountered Cubans smoking crude cigars during his expeditions to the New World and brought them back to Europe. The cost of cigars was high, making smoking cigars an expensive habit.
While the word's finest cigars still come from Cuba, cigar manufacturing has become an art that has spread across the world. Cigar tobacco was grown in Massachusetts in as early as 1610, while places like the Philippines, Java, Sri Lanka, and Russia became early hotspots for cigar making.
While cigars were initially made by hand until the beginning of the twentieth centaury, the process of cigar manufacturing quickly became industrialised, which led to an increased number of cigars that were able to be manufactured.
The leaf of the tobacco plant is perhaps the most important element in a high-quality cigar. A cigar requires three kinds of tobacco leaf:
• Small or broken tobacco leaves are used for the filler of the cigar
• Whole leaves are used for the inside wrapper or binder, of the cigar
• A large, finely textured leaf is used for the outside wrapper of the cigar
The process of cigar manufacturing also requires additional secondary raw materials such as a tasteless gum that is used to stick the end of the outside wrapper together. Flavouring agents are also sometimes sprayed onto the filler leaves, while paper is used to create the band placed around each cigar.
The Cigar Manufacturing Process:
Step 1: Cultivation of Tobacco
Tobacco plants are carefully pruned to ensure their leaves grow to the correct size. Plants that produce leaves for the outer wrappers of cigars are usually covered to protect the leaves from the sun.
Step 2: Curing
In this step in the cigar manufacturing process, the tobacco leaves are harvested and cured to create the cigar's characteristic aroma. After harvesting, the tobacco leaves must be cured in order to develop their characteristic aroma.
Step 3: Fermenting
Once cured, the tobacco leaves are sorted by size and colour. The leaves are tied into bundles called hands of 10 or 15 leaves each and stored in boxes called hogsheads for a period ranging from six months to five years.
Step 4: Stripping
In the next step of the cigar manufacturing process, the main vein of the filler leaves are removed. This step can be completed by hand or by machine. The stripped leaves are wrapped in bales and stored for further fermentation. Just before the leaves are ready for manufacture into cigars, they are steamed to restore lost humidity, and sorted again.
Step 5: Hand rolling
Fine cigars are rolled by hand. Cigar rolling is skilled work that is usually done by hand. It is a complex art as it takes up to a year for a roller to become proficient. The filler must be packed evenly for the cigar to ensure that it burns smoothly.
Step 6: Wrapping
Wrapping is the most difficult step in the cigar manufacturing process. The partially completed cigar is taken out of the mold, placed in on the wrapper leaf and cut with a special rounded knife called a chaveta.
Today, most cigars are made by machine. Throughout each step of the manufacturing process, each cigar is inspected to ensure that it is of the highest quality. Whether made by machine or by hand, cigar manufacturing is an art unto itself. To produce a distinctive high quality cigar, each manufacturer will have their own unique method that should be savoured and enjoyed.