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Meerapfel, a big name in the tobacco industry that few know

Posted by on 9/18/2021
Meerapfel, a big name in the tobacco industry that few know

In the tobacco world, the Meerapfel name is synonymous with traditional quality. Meerapfel & Söhne, the 145-year-old company of this Jewish family of German origin, has been present in all the important places of the tobacco industry: Indonesia, the United States, Cuba and Central America.

Maier Meerapfel started the family business in 1876 in Untergrombach, Germany, and from 1900 began to expand outside the country, to the point that in 1933 he became Germany's largest importer of wrappers from Java and Sumatra. Shortly after the Nazis came to power, the family emigrated to the United States where Ernest, Maier's son, set up a tobacco business in New York and later continued to grow wrappers in Miami, Florida.

Due to their presence in the United States, they established links with tobacco production located both in that country and in Cuba. A fact that took place just after the victory of the Cuban Revolution, recounted by Jeremiah, grandson of Heller, one of the greats of the Meerapfel dynasty, shows his close ties with that country: “Heller bought an incredible 160,000 bundles with the best tobacco leaves. He exported them to Europe and also to the US until the 1962 embargo put a brake on the works. He went down in history as Havana's tobacco export champion”.[1]

Rick, Jeremiah's father, born in the United States, lived in Cuba for almost a year in the late 1970s, learning all about tobacco growing and production, and “was the first American to enter the tobacco paradise of Vuelta Abajo after the revolution. Between 1982 and 1985 he bought the "brown gold" and exported it to Europe".[2]

In Miami, Rick met Carlos Fuente Jr., with whom he established a lifelong friendship that, in some way, served as the impetus for Meerapfel & Söhne's expansion to Central America, since just around that time, the Fuente family was establishing Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic. This move was intended to manufacture premium cigars for the United States market, as a result of the restrictions imposed on the importation of cigars from Cuba, after the Revolution.

Rick Meerapfel was the master of wrapper tobacco from Cameroon who, in the early 90's of the last century, saved from extinction that recognized and valued leaf that covers some of the most sought-after cigars in the world, including Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, Ashton Heritage and Partagas from General Cigar. That perhaps is the main reason that this family is a legend in the cigar industry, since if it weren't for their dedication and determination, Cameroonian tobacco would most likely not exist.

They began financing crops in that Central African country in the 1960s, when production was still in the hands of the French government and later, in the 1990s, when France abandoned the operation, they founded their own local tobacco company called CETAC S.A. (Compagnie d'Exploitation des Tabacs Centrafricains), from which they organized production and introduced practices that renewed the way Central Africans grow and process their tobacco.

M. Meerapfel & Söhne, has marketed tobacco throughout its long history and has specialized in the exclusive distribution of premium cigars, although it dedicates a part of the business to logistics and warehousing. It has its own brands such as La Estancia, La Estancia Exclusive Edition, Machetero, Square Line and Maestranza, and they distribute several brands such as Padron and Arturo Fuente, a company for whom they also carry out marketing throughout the world except in the United States.

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