Curing Tobacco for Cigars
Curing tobacco for cigars has com a long way since the 1600’s. Prior to this period, farmers growing tobacco would leave their harvested plants in a field to sweat. However, in 1618, sweating tobacco was formally outlawed by the government. In an attempt to adjust, farmers began using sticks or lines to hang the tobacco out to dry. While farmers initially cured tobacco using lines near railroads, they soon discovered that barns were a better place to cure tobacco. Yet, many of the earliest tobacco farmers responsible for manufacturing cigars relied on their experience to identify when the tobacco was done being cured.
Once farmers believed that the tobacco being made into cigars was done with the curing process, they would remove perform a process called striking. The tobacco striking process was characterized by removing the sticks and lines from which the tobacco hung from. After this process was complete, the farmers placed the tobacco back in the barn to sweat. Although farmers would often use logs and fire to increase the temperatures inside the barns and speed up the tobacco sweating process, too much heat could ruin the crop. Furthermore, many farmers found that using fire to sweat tobacco for cigars produced the unwanted barn fire and ruined their crops.
Farmers who successfully completed the tobacco sweating process were then focused on sorting their product. During this process, tobacco farmers were focused on isolating tobacco that could be stretched. This tobacco was ideally glossy, leather like and moist. However not all cured tobacco could be used for cigars. Instead, if the tobacco was to damp, it would either crumble during the cigar manufacturing process or rot while in transit.
Shipping the cured tobacco was another challenge for the earliest farmers and cigar manufacturers. Prior to shipping the cured tobacco to be made into cigars, the tobacco leaves were rolled an twisted and then spun into what looked like a rope. The ‘rope’ of cured tobacco was then rolled into balls, which could weigh more than one hundred pounds. These balls were often shipped from the United States to England, so the English could enjoy a good cigar. While the mass exporting of tobacco was formally banned in the 1730’s, many continued to engage in this practice using a ‘hogshead,’ as a container.
Once the cured tobacco arrived at its destination, the earliest cigar manufactures began rolling the cigars. The cigars were then sold throughout England, who had a love-affair with this early North American product. This love affair led many cigar smokers in England to pay extra for this imported product. Yet, many avid cigar smokers felt that smoking cigars made the user carefree. As a result, there was a continuous demand for the product. While the history of curing tobacco for cigars has continued to evolve, many current cigar smokers continue to enjoy cigars for its relaxing qualities.