Cuban Cigar Traditions Still Used Today
HANDCRAFTED. INDIVIDUALLY ROLLED. TIME-HONOURED TECHNIQUE
Every country has their traditions. With cigars being one of Cuba’s biggest exports – ingrained in the country as the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, the heritage of Cuban Cigars is sacred and firmly protected. The methods of making were pioneered centuries ago and have mostly remained the same. Discovered in the West by Christopher Columbus, who travelled with the Spanish to the unknown land of Cuba, they noticed Taino Indians with a mysterious roll. This roll was in fact a ‘Cohiba’, what they called a mixture of tobacco and leaves, now of course developed as a cigar. Here we take you on a journey through the wonderful and interesting traditions, demonstrating how your favourite cigars are wrapped in layers of ancient customs and craft.
HANDMADE AND ROLLED BY TORCEDORS – Technology and machinery is an integral part of 21st century living. Artisanship has decreased to specialists and those who place luxury above time and quantity. It’s charming and simply marvellous to know, that despite Cuban cigars being smoked in each corner of the world, they are still lovingly handmade by Torcedors. During the period of Columbus’s exploration to Cuba, cigars were not recognised as they are today. There was no ageing process, and the mixture of leaves and tobacco were quickly bunched together. However, the rolling of cigars has been practiced for more than 200 years and the methods used have not altered since. It’s why cigar aficionados claim Cuba produces the best, because other countries have turned to machines. And with countless decades of experience, you cannot find better torcedor’s anywhere else.
Top Left: A torcedor rolling a cigar, Top Right and Bottom: Torcedor Juanita Ramos Guerra
"torcedors represent a Cuban institution"
On our post: How to Roll a Cigar, we shared rare images inside a Cuban cigar factory and explained the various techniques of rolling, such as Entubado Bunching and Book Bunching. We also have a post with legendary torcedor Juanita Ramos Guerra, who gave us a step-by-step to the process involved. A Cigar roller rarely needs more than a few tools to perform their mastery, and some even work in shops and put together a habano that you can buy immediately after. In Cuba, this trade is highly admirable as torcedors represent a Cuban institution. Along with the workers, another tradition has remained in the process of cigar making – lectors.
STORY-TELLERS IN FACTORIES – Since the mid-nineteenth century, lectors have read aloud to workers as they roll cigars. Precisely in 1845, this practice began and was a way to educate cigar rollers who typically came from a poor academic background. Factory workers helped establish the name Romeo Y Julieta – their continual request to listen to Shakespeare’s Romeo Y Juliet play, inspired owners Inocenio Alvarez and Manin Garcia. You can find out how the brand reach the pinnacle of success, by reading our piece on the Captivating History Behind the Brand. Today, workers get to choose lectors and pick from a varied reading selection. From horoscopes and news, to classic books and magazine articles. The story-tellers take their jobs very seriously, and try to find a way to inspire and influence their audience. This piece from the BBC shares further insight.
Top Left: Cohiba brand logo, Top Right: Romeo Y Julieta brand logo, Bottom: Romeo Y Julieta Tacos Cigar with their special, Limited Edition band
"stylish elite could flaunt their cigars"
CIGAR BANDS DISTINGUISHING BRANDS – The humble cigar band is seeped in history and myth. Many believe they were created as a way to protect fingers from stains. It was actually a Dutch man named Gustave Bock, living in Cuba, who came up with the idea of a cigar band in the nineteenth century. The invention was to set his cigars a part from other competitors. By 1855, nearly all Cuban brands had adopted bands, with each adding their own twist. When Jose Rodriguez Fernandez became in charge of Romeo Y Julieta Cigars, he produced a collection of almost 20,000 personalised bands so the stylish elite could flaunt their cigars as a status symbol. Famously, Bolivar Cigars have bands which feature the revolutionary South-American leader Simon Bolivar, who represents the brand’s powerful and full-bodied flavours. Cigar bands are as important presently as they were back then.
TRADITIONAL TOBACCO TECHNIQUES – In addition to being handmade, habanos are one of the only cigars with tobacco sourced from one country. Places like the Dominican Republic, use a mixture of tobacco from different parts of the world, but a true Cuban cigar only uses Cuban. The oldest tobacco growing land in the country, is the Vuelta Arribo Region, which is exactly where Columbus found natives smoking. The Partido Region has plantations used since the early 1700’s. Today the area makes the most delectable wrappers, including the dark oily wrappers of a Cohiba Behike, and the light wrappers seen on Bolivar, like a Bolivar Petit Coronas Cigar. But it is the Vuelta Abajo province that reigns supreme. Considered a cigar paradise, the area has the precise humidity and temperature needed. Tobacco has been grown there from around 1830, and it’s where all the greatest cigar companies – Cohiba Cigars, H. Upmann and Partagas for example, collect their tobacco. An article on Culture Trip, shares how traditional techniques have been especially crucial, after Cuba's 'Special Period' when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The humble cigar has come along away - what formed as a hidden product believed to possess medicinal properties, has transformed to a luxury that people acknowledge as a type of lifestyle. From our cigars for sale online, we are proud to say they inherit past tradition and importantly, are from Cuba, where artisanship and quality excel.