History of Cigars
No sooner than Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World and the Caribbean islands in 1492 did he encounter the Tainos natives (who lived in Cuba) smoking tobacco. The Tainos smoked the leaves wrapped in plantain and palm leaves, a prototype for the first cigars. Tobacco smoking was done throughout the Caribbean and South/Central America when Columbus arrived in the New World. He brought back tobacco leaves to Europe, and sailors soon became dedicated tobacco smokers and spread the practice across Europe. Sailors are generally credited with rolling tobacco leaves to make the first cigars. Soon, Spain started manufacturing cigars using tobacco shipped from Cuba, as the climate of the Caribbean was especially suited for high quality tobacco (the British preferred using a pipe). Cigars started improving as a procedure of drying and fermenting tobacco leaves to maximize the flavor of the cigar developed. That happened over several centuries and through many generations.
Eventually, the cigar making industry, by torcedores or cigar rollers, began to prosper in Cuba, closer to the tobacco farms. This led to increased quality as the cigar manufacturers had more say in the production of quality tobacco, and the tobacco didn’t have to withstand a transatlantic trip before rolling and being sealed for purchase . Also, Cuba pioneered the using a different type of tobacco leaf for the three parts of a cigar (the wrapper, the binder and the filling). Each is made in different regions of Cuba and is specifically suited for its role.
Famous Cuban Cigar Brands
Even before Castro came to power, several Cuban manufacturers moved to the United States most notably the Ybor brand, increasing the reputation of Cuban cigars. Vicente Martinez Ybor relocated his factory first to Key West. Because Cuban rollers still came and went between Key West and Cuba, Ybor built a city for cigar rollers outside of Tampa complete with housing for the workers and their families. Cuban rollers migrated permanently to Ybor city, and it became the largest manufacturer of cigars in the world.
<http://agozarnyc.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CigarWrapping_blog.png>Still, many, if not most, of the best handmade cigars were made in Cuba. To this day as the quality of rollers and tobacco is a point of pride in Cuba, although much of the profession is now dominated by women. Cuban cigars are prized the world over. Brands like Montecristo, Upmann and Hoyo de Monterrey brand did particularly well overseas and were the gold standard in cigars. Even when JFK enacted the embargo of Cuba, he bought a hefty supply of Cuban cigars, Upmann (his favorite). After Castro took over in Cuba and seized the Cuban cigar industry, the quality of cigars survived as Castro was an obsessive lover of cigars. Many photos of him are with a cigar in his mouth. In fact, he popularized Cohida, a cigar with extra fermentation that is now sold all over the world.
The communist Castro revolution caused a lot of disruption in the cigar world. As many of the cigar company owners fled Cuba, cigars under the same name are produced in Cuba and Dominican Republic. As cigar making is an art, not a science, Cuba has been able to maintain its standing in the cigar world, even without the technological development of the competitors.
Current Status of Cuban Cigars
Most cigar rollers in Cuba are female and hence, torcedoras. The torcedoras still hold the same esteem in Cuba, and Cubans are shipped all over the world, but the Cuban cigar industry is still cut off from cigars biggest market, the USA. Cuban cigars are smuggled into the country illegally (it is also illegal for an American citizen to smoke Cubans anywhere in the world), but many that claim to be Cuban cigars are not from Cuba and are sold as Cubans because the sellers can get a higher price. Perhaps, one day the embargo will be lifted and the rights of Cuban cigar manufacturers are returned, so that Americans can experience the pleasure of Cuban cigars legally and Cubans can share a key part of their cultural legacy.
Don Gonzalez one of our premiere cigar vendors, now you can enjoy one of his cigars in our NEW designated smoking area in the breezeway located between the two buildings.