Every cigar that is lit somewhere in the world has behind it a long story to tell. And it is so because, from the moment when the seed is planted until it is ready to be offered to the consumer, a long time elapses and numerous and varied processes occur, in which dozens of people have intervened who offer the best of themselves to produce a product, which is, perhaps, the most handmade and natural of all the consumable products that exist.
This long journey begins with the selection of the seeds and the sowing of the plants in seedbeds, where they are left until they reach a few inches in height, at which time it is proceed to transplant them to the field. Once that between 40 and 50 days have passed since the transplant, the recollection of the leaves begins. This slow and laborious process can take up to 30 days from the beginning, because each type of leaf has a different recollection time, in addition to the fact that all leaves must be harvested by hand to prevent deterioration.
The harvest has finished and a long journey has begun during which the leaves, after going through three key processes, will have undergone important transformations: curing (some call it drying), fermentation and aging. Only after these complex and time-consuming processes have been completed will the sheets be ready for cigar making, which involves many laborious activities and phases.
The curing of the leaves, which generally takes between 40 and 50 days more, is a process where important biochemical and above all physiological transformations take place, some of which are internal and therefore not visible and others can be observed with the naked eye. This process is also known as drying but in reality it would be applicable to curing that is carried out artificially, because in the manual, the biochemical transformations of the leaves predominate over the loss of water.
After the leaves are cured, fermentation begins, which is also a natural process in which the physical-chemical properties of tobacco are altered through enzymatic transformations. This process is essential for tobacco production, as it not only removes harmful ammonia compounds from tobacco, bacteria, microorganisms and molds, but also improves the quality of the tobacco and ensures that the leaves develop with the correct softness and aroma.
If carried out under suitable conditions, it is a guarantee of obtaining a high quality tobacco with the characteristic color, aroma and flavor of a certain variety. The duration of this process will vary according to the humidity and temperature conditions at which it is carried out, but in general terms, no less than 30 days should elapse before the tobacco is considered ready for classification.
Once the fermentation time is over, the leaves are packed to begin the long final process that is aging, through which a slow and constant decomposition of carotenoids occurs, key to highlighting the desirable properties of tobacco. For stronger leaves, this period can take up to two and more years. In any case, it is important to note that, as for a good wine, the longer a leaf matures, the higher its quality.
When the aging is finished, the leaves are ready to become cigars, although it should be noted that after the cigar is in the hands of the consumer, they may decide to age it even more, for which special devices called humidors are used, by means of which it is possible that the cigar continues to evolve, over time, in flavor and aromas.