My first (and last?) cigar

The third day in Havana, together with a French couple we met in the casa particular, we rented a taxi (and driver, of course!) and went to Viñales to see the sights. Our first stop was at a private tobacco farm, a friend of our driver’s, off the beaten tourist paths. Which suited us just fine.

The farm, with a Poinsettia tree in the foreground. I’m always amazed at how large and flourishing these plants are when they’re where they’re supposed to be, and how scrawny and listless they are in Europe.

Wilson showed us around, and the first thing he explained was that cigar making is a one-year-and-a-half long process. Which is long. And it’s delicate, and long, and has to be precise. I realised that when I felt my first tobacco leaf – so delicate and frail!

Tissue-thin leaves. And so soft!

We were there before the sun started really heating up the land, and the leaves were warm and moist, because of the dew, wilson told us. And you can’t pick them until they dry. And you have to pick them three leaves at a time, from the bottom up. And working these beautiful crops gives you tough, calloused hands, as Wilson was keen to make us notice ^_^

The difference between my hand (on the left) and Wilson’s. I definitely look like the dainty city girl don’t I?

Wilson was great. He spoke slowly so our French non-Spanish-speaking friends could understand, smiled a lot and seemed delighted to have us there.

Wilson, explaining in a field of tobacco.

I loved the feel of the farm. Quiet, calm, warm, homey. Maybe I was a tobacco farmer in another life?

So beautiful!

Before we went to see the tobacco leaves drying, we stopped by the farm’s coffee plants. Boyfriend loved this part, as he had never seen a coffee plants and was enthusiastic to say the least!

The coffee plants
Wilson telling us about the coffee and holding a seed.

We then were offered a coffee made with the seeds of the plants we had just seen – incredible! I didn’t drink any (I don’t like coffee. Unless it’s very sugary, covered with whipped cream and possibly with a dollop of ice cream in it..) but boyfriend said that the coffee in Cuba was definitely the best non-Italian coffee he has ever had. And that’s a compliment, Cuban coffee-makers.

Wilson and a second worker whose name we didn’t catch but whose appearance was … typical! 😀

We then went into the actual drying barn, where two women were threading a certain amount of leaves – 6? 7? – can’t remember, but the number was fixed. No flexibility.

The women were nice. Used to people taking photos, I suppose, and very concentrated on what they were doing.

Then each bunch is hung from a eucalyptus branch and left to dry for a long time (months. Three, possibly.) until it becomes brown and brittle, like so:

Dry on top and ready to be threaded below.

The large, lower leaves that are harvested first are used as the wrapping of the cigars, whilst the softer, more tender ones are used as the “filling”. Depending on how many of which leaves are used, the cigars change their quality.

The cool cigars in the handmade box that we did not buy. For us non-smokers they were slightly too expensive.

Also, interesting fact, tobacco leaves for cigars are de-veined: the thick central vein is removed and this (Wilson says) is where most of the nicotine is found. For cigarettes, on the other hand, this vein is left in place and that’s why cigars are better for you than cigarettes.

Those thick veins are seeping with nicotine (apparently!)

We then were invited to smoke one of the houses cigars.

Wilson lighting the cigar and one of my favourite photos.
Boyfriend smoking the cigar and looking poetic ^_^


And me smoking the cigar, obviously not doing it right, inhaling all the smoke and choking. Ah well, it was my first time smoking something…maybe not the right moment to fully appreciate what I was doing!

Group photo!

Oh, I spotted this in the room in which we were drinking coffee/smoking cigars/buying goods:

A Russian washing machine! Does it work? I asked. As an answer, Wilson opened the top and…it was full of dirty clothes!

We then strolled through the farm one last time.

Boyfriend took some coffee seeds…
…I saw a little girl spying on us…

…and we saw a cuban farmer. Sledding.

Dashing through the tobacco plants, in a two-ox open-Cuban sleigh, all the fields we go, smoking all the waaaaay…
A different kind of beauty but beautiful nonetheless.
The front of the farm. Quite scenic.

Then we hopped into our jungle taxi and continued on our journey!

Our valiant steed. Notice the min-fire extinguisher between the two windows… Reassuring. But hey, we’re alive aren’t we?!

3 Comments on “My first (and last?) cigar

  1. Pingback: Our taxi | Full Of Daisies

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