Cuban has long been the producer of the most desirable and sought-after cigars in the world, adored by tobacco aficionado’s including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan. Indeed, a nation that has struggled to match the pace of the developing world has managed to forge its place at the very top of the pile, when it comes to fine tobacco production. But what makes Cuba’s most prized export so much better than the competition and these stogies deserving of such unadulterated praise?
Origins & Climate
Although cigar smoking most likely did not originate in Cuba, its fertile land and agreeable climate made it perfect for the production of the three types of tobacco leaves used in a cigar – the wrapper, filler and binder. Consistently high temperatures and ample rainfall means the growers can control the flavour, texture and composition of their cigars far better than other nations, who are forced to source from abroad.
The humidity of Cuba is ideal for the drying of the tobacco leaves. If too much moisture is lost during this process, the result is a cigar with a poor taste.
Fun Fact: Every plantation in Cuba is required to sell 90% of their tobacco to the Government for a prescribed rate.
President Kennedy’s Trade Embargo
As a result of increasing political tensions with the United States, President John F Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, effectively wiping out two-thirds of the nations export business. Suddenly, cuban cigars became nearly impossible to get and their cachet rose rapidly, as a result.
Fun Fact: Just prior to the embargo, President Kennedy instructed his secretary to buy as many H. Upmann Cuban cigars as she could find. She returned with 1,200.
A Failed Attempt to Modernise
In the 1990’s, the industry attempted to ramp-up production by fast-forwarding the curing, fermentation and ageing process’, resulting in an overall drop of quality and worldwide rankings. New, poorly trained staff and unsuitable growing land were eventually removed and traditional methods were reintroduced, which are still used to this day.
Fun Fact: Cuban cigars fell in the worldwide rankings between 1998 and 2005, with 2002 being the worst.
Hundreds of years of experience growing and producing tobacco in Cuba have resulted in highly refined timetables for harvesting and rolling. Farmers have passed down their knowledge regarding the perfect time to plant, harvest, cure and roll, with a small reliance on modern technology or new efficiency-driven methods.
Fun Fact: Many factories employ “lectores” or readers, who read aloud from the official Cuban Press, whilst the workers roll the cigars.
As the world continues to open up to trade and new markets emerge, the demand for Cuban cigars is only set to soar. Sales to China, Cuba’s third biggest export market, rose by 33% in 2017, leading many to believe that it will soon be their biggest in the near future.
The decades-old trade embargo with the United States continues to deny the nation access to the worlds largest cigar market, with no sign of significant change on the horizon.
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