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Editor's Choice

2018/4/24 in Vinales, Cuba

In a land of cigars

Story - told by Vladan Dobrenov

If you try some cigars during your stay in Havana and you like it, you should visit the small town of Viñales, against a backstop of cliffs, you will find acres of farmland. The process from seed to cigar is a long one, as the tobacco leaves need to dry for a couple of months. But here you see the process from start to finish.

Although climate change is affecting the growing season, you will still find many farms passed down for generations, and these tobacco leaves passed through the worn hands of farmers. Cigars are more than a cloud of smoke in Cuba; they are a way of life.

It’s remarkable to think that the history of Cuban cigars stretches back almost 500 years

Viñales is a tranquil haven less than three hours from Cuba’s capital, Havana. Havana is a Earth place for cocktail lovers and salsa dancing queens, but after five nights party at streets of La Habana, it was time for some lush green countryside.

It’s remarkable to think that the history of Cuban cigars stretches back almost 500 years, and yet when you consider this, and it’s not surprising that the Cubans have got it down to a fine art. Tobacco crops themselves are pretty, although not all that remarkable to look at. They are plants with broad green leaves. The end product of these plants is genuinely impressive though. If you want to see the birthplace of many of these cigars, you’ll need to head to the delightful town of Viñales.

The fertile soil around the town is ideal for the growth of tobacco crops, and you will see ramshackle sheds dotted throughout the farmlands. These shacks are where the tobacco is cured, and this takes around one month. The harvested leaves are stored in the hut and are allowed to partially dry out, reducing the water content in the leaves.

Cuban cigars are expensive, even in Cuba.

They are then sent to the production facility for more pronounced drying, after that the leaves are shredded and are ready to be made into cigars. There are a few things you need to know about Cuban cigars if you want to grab a few to take home with you.

  • Fidel Castro's favorite Cuban cigars were Cohibas, but he quit smoking decades ago.
  • Cuban cigars are expensive, even in Cuba.
  • You can identify a fake Cuban cigar by the packaging. The bottom of a Cuban cigar box you will find a code for the factory in which the cigars were made, and a date stamp showing when the cigars were put in the box.
  • Cuban cigars may not be the best anymore. The cigar smokers surveyed say that cigars made in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua are much better.

Cigars are more than a cloud of smoke in Cuba; they are a way of life.

At the end at Viñales there is a secret place, take in a free tour at the Jardin Botanico de Viñales (Botanic Gardens), and you’ll be greeted by a wide array of tropical trees and flowers, and will even be able to enjoy tropical fruit directly from the plants. Keep your eyes open – you might see a hummingbird as it goes from one flower to another, enjoying a lunch of nectar.

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