As you might have heard, smoking is not good for you. And yet… do you think there’s a difference between smoking nasty old cigarettes and smoking cigars? There kind of is. We can’t pretend that any kind of smoking going to be good for your health, but there are some instances where smoking a cigar takes on an extra significance. This is the case when cigars are part of a nation’s cultural identity. So what are these nations? There are a number of countries which are known for their tobacco crops, much of which ends up in cigars. So what are the countries that happen to produce the finest cigars in the world?
- The USA
If you happen to be driving through the Connecticut River Valley and see rows upon rows of tents, no, you haven’t found some sort of camping ground or religious cult in the middle of nowhere. These are not so much tents as they are shaded enclosures under which tobacco is grown. The unimaginatively named Connecticut shade tobacco is rarely used as the actual filling of a cigar, but the damp and aromatic leaf makes for a flavoursome wrapping which is then filled with imported tobacco. This wrapping leaf is widely regarded to be one of the best in the world.
It could be suggested that the tobacco crops in Indonesia are down to a combination of favourable weather conditions and the region’s colonial history. Back in 1800 the area became known as the Dutch East Indies, and wasn’t actually referred to as Indonesia until around 1880, and many of these crops date back to Dutch settlement. The cigars produced in Indonesia generally come from crops grown in Sumatra in western Indonesia, and are smaller than most cigars (without quite being as small as cigarillos) and have a sweet, almost spicy aroma.
The trade embargo imposed against Cuba was good news for the Mexican cigar industry. It was geographically convenient to simply shift their product north of the border to meet the demand that could no longer be so easily(or legally) filled by Cuba. Like many nations, the tobacco crops flourishing across Mexico are not indigenous, and in this instance Mexico produces tobacco that has been nurtured from crops originally imported from both Cuba and Indonesia. Much of the country’s cigar production is centred around the Valle de San Andrés in the Veracruz region, close to the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Dominican Republic
Another country that picked up the slack after Cuban cigars became contraband is the Dominican Republic. The cigar industry has come along in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, and much of these crops come from seeds imported from Cuba. It could be suggested that a lot of Cuban tobacco crops just moved offshore.
This central American country underwent a series of violent upheavals, most recently in the Nicaraguan Revolution which took place from 1962 until 1990. This turmoil naturally had an adverse effect on many industries, including the nation’s tobacco crops, which are primarily located close to border with Honduras. The industry has rapidly rebuilt itself and is largely composed of crops imported from both Cuba and the USA (that Connecticut shade tobacco).
There are a number of African nations which grow tobacco, although the diverse nature of Cameroon makes for the most distinctive and flavoursome cigars produced on the continent. Political instability has led to mismanagement of a number of agricultural industries, and the tobacco crops of the country have been affected. Though not a good thing for the sustained production of the product, this has resulted in tobacco crops produced in Cameroon becoming highly sought after (and rather expensive when compared to crops produced in other countries). The Cameroon leaves are primarily used as wrappers, often exported to be used as wrappers in other nation’s cigars. It results in a cigar that’s the right blend of sweet and spicey
The granddaddy of them all, Cuba remains the proud producer of the best cigars in the world. Given Cuba’s political history, it’s almost entirely a localised industry. The crops are grown in an authentic, largely de industrialised environment (much of the harvesting is still done by hand) before the filler and wrapper leaves are dried onsite. They are then sent to cigar factories in larger cities where they are rolled, either by machine or hand. The industry has become a tourist drawcard, and a vintage Havana tour is likely to take in a cigar factory (with chances to buy some souvenirs, naturally). Now that a number of trade restrictions against Cuba are being dropped, the nation’s cigars are once again returning to global dominance.