How Cigars are Made

How Cigars are Made

Cigar making is not as easy as you may think. It involves a series of steps that you must keenly follow so as to come up with something that will be appreciated by the cigar aficionados and newbies as well. You also need to be in possession of all the right raw materials that are required for the process. If you are interested in learning how cigars are made, tag along for some amazing lessons.

Raw materials

The cigar making process requires two types of raw materials, that is, the primary raw material and secondary raw material. The primary raw material is the tobacco leaf which you obtain from tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum). Even though it grows in many climatic conditions, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Jamaica have been found to grow the finest cigar tobacco.

In order to make a cigar, three kinds of tobacco leaves are required, and each one of them has a specific function: small or broken leaves for the filler, whole leaves for the binder (inside wrapper) and a large, fine-textured leaf with a uniform appearance for the outside wrapper.

The secondary raw materials include flavoring agents, tasteless gum for sticking the ends of the wrapper together and paper for the band.

The manufacturing process

Cultivation

Before we take you to what happens in the factory, let’s give you a little walk to tobacco fields. The first stage in cigar making involves the cultivation of tobacco seeds indoors. After six to ten weeks, these seedlings are transplanted to the fields and then their leaves are pruned with extreme care so that they gain the desired size.

The plants that make the wrappers are usually covered with a clothing to avoid the sun’s direct impact. It takes several months before the plants mature and are ready to be harvested. The harvesting is done in an extremely thoughtful and careful process.

Curing

Once the leaves have been harvested, they are sorted according to texture and size. Before they can be used in the cigar making process, they have to undergo a process called curing which takes between 25 to 45 days.  In this process, the leaves are bundled and hung from the ceiling of a curing barn which has to be well-ventilated.

When the weather is dry, the leaves are simply cured by hanging. This is known as air-curing. However, if the weather is wet or rather cool, the leaves are flue-cured; a process in which the bundled leaves are hung in a barn that is heated in a temperature range of 90- 170°F(32.2- 77°C).

The curing process ensures that the tobacco leaves release the water, sugar content and other toxins such as ammonia and develop their characteristic aroma. It is controlled depending on the desired leaf color and the type of tobacco used.

Fermenting

After curing, the leaves are re-sorted according to size and color: small or broken leaves for the filler, large leaves for the binder while large and fine leaves are for the outer wrapper.

The leaves are once again bundled in hands of 10 or 15 leaves each, packed in boxes or hogsheads (large casks) and then stored under controlled conditions (temperature and humidity) for about six weeks to 5 years depending on the type of the desired cigar. This is the fermentation process. It is the stage where the flavor, aroma and burning characteristics develop.

During this aging or fermenting process, the leaves are carefully and continually moistened so that each leaf brings out its best qualities. They are baled, inspected, un-baled, re-inspected and this cycle goes on and on until the leaves are properly aged to be used in the production of cigars.

Stripping

The main veins or stems of the tobacco leaves are removed so that during smoking, the cigar is able to burn evenly. This process is known as deveining or stripping. Deveining can be done either by machine or by hand. Mechanically, the leaves are inserted into a machine that has a grooved circular knife. The foot treadle is depressed causing the knife to lower, thus, cutting out the veins.

Manually, a skilled worker clips off the veins using a thimble knife that is fitted to his finger and then pulls it down. The stripped leaves are then stacked in bales and then stored ready for the manufacture of cigars.

Rolling

Before the fermented and aged leaves are used for making cigars, they are normally steamed so as to restore the lost humidity. They are re-sorted basing on their size, color, texture, strength and resiliency. A blend for each specific cigar is prepared and all rollers are required to use the same blend to ensure the same taste in all cigars of a particular brand.

Rolling can be done in two ways: by hand and by machine.

Hand rolling

This is where the cigars are rolled manually.  Cigars produced in this manner are considered to be of high quality by the cigar lovers. The hand maker at first selects two to six leaves that will be used for the filler. He places the leaves on top of one another and then rolls them into a bunch; a process called bunching.

He then places the bunch on the binder leaf and rolls it in a cylindrical manner around the filler. These cigars are then placed in an open wooden mold awaiting wrapping. The wooden mold helps to keep the unfinished in shape.

At the wrapping stage, the worker takes the unfinished cigar out of the wooden mold and puts it on the wrapper leaf. He then trims off the irregular regions in the filler using a chaveta (a special crescent-shaped knife).  After trimming, he rolls the wrapper leaf around the binder and filler 3.5 times and fastens it at the end with a little tasteless gum.

To complete the process, the worker cuts a small round piece from another wrapper leaf which he attaches to the end of the cigar with tasteless gum. The cigar is now ready for testing, sorting, packing and selling.

Factories make use of teams of hand rollers to make the hand rolling process faster.

Machine rolling

Machine rolling is a lot simpler than hand rolling. All you need is a cigar machine and several workers. First and foremost, the leaves are inserted onto the machine’s feed belt which in turn rotates and bunches the leaves forming the filler. The binder leaf or homogenized tobacco leaf (HTL) is then placed onto the binder die. It is cut into the desirable size by the machine.

The machine drops the filler onto the binder die and then it rolls the binder around the filler.  The wrapper leaf is now placed onto the wrapper die onto which the unfinished cigar drops and a wrapper is rolled around it by the machine. The workers inspect the finished cigars and place them on trays to be taken for further examination by the experts.

Finishing and Packing

After the final checking for quality and correction of imperfections, the cigars are then sorted and packaged according to the brand.

This how the fantastic stick you always hold in your hand is made. Hope over to Thompsoncigar and see some exquisite cigar brands you can smoke as you exchange words with friendly strangers around you.

 

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