Cigars: Processing Tobacco

Why Process Tobacco?After being harvested and cured, tobacco is not fully stabilized and can not be kept long. It must next be fermented. Fermentation is a complex process, but to make a long story short, one can say that it is a transformation of the chemical components by oxydation.Fermentation and AgingFermentation is a natural transformation of the chemical components that stabilizes the raw material. The process is rather deep and quite fast. When well fermented, a tobacco can be stored for years without damage.Aging is a slow natural evolution , during which time the tobacco is going to improve its characteristics and to lose its “green” taste. Once blended in a cigar, the tobacco deserves a new period of aging in order to reach a good balance between the blend components.Why Ferment Tobacco?Beyond stabilization and storage capability, fermentation makes the tobacco lose its raw and green taste that nobody would really like.Who can ferment tobacco ?It is easy to grow a few tobacco plants in your backyard if you like gardening. But if you want to process it for smoking, you’ll have to ferment it. If not, you’ll have some trouble with the taste. To ferment your tobacco properly, you need either large quantities (hundreds of pounds) to build a bulk volume for natural processing, or expensive equipment for artificial fermentation. Our recommandation is to grow petunias (decorative tobacco plants, with a lot of colorful blossoms) and to buy cigars to enjoy your smoke!How to Ferment Tobacco?To process a natural fermentation, tobacco is piled up. The weight and the natural moisture content allow the fermentation to start in the middle of the pile. The temperature goes up. When the targeted temperature is reached, the pile is broken and rebuilt, the outside tobacco going inside and vice versa. And that as many times as is necessary, until the whole pile is properly fermented. Some heavy tobaccos can need up to six turnings. It takes months to ferment them correctly.Fermentation and RottingDon’t be afraid when reading that tobacco is fermented! Tobacco is not going to be rotten! Just stabilized and smokeable without giving you nausea. Fermentation considerably improves the original taste.Fermentation and QualityEach tobacco has its own fermentation procedure. The main factors that define the process are the texture of the material, and the utilization of the tobacco afterwards. Light wrappers and full bodied fillers are not fermented the same way.Fermentation and TemperatureHumid tobacco leaves put in a pile are going to start fermenting, giving out heat. The control of the temperature inside the pile is a key factor of success. If the temperature goes too high, the tobacco will be cooked and deteriorate. Each type has its own optimal temperature. When it is reached, the pile has to be opened to stop the heating process and a new pile is built with cooled down tobacco. The outside tobaccos go inside and vice-versa. As an example, a dark air cured tobacco accepts a temperature up to about 130ºF. And disaster can start at 140ºF.

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