02 May 2012
The Tobacco Process
After tobacco has been harvested, it is not fully stabilized and can not be kept for long. The tobacco must be fermented, which is a complex process transforming the chemical components by oxidation.
Fermentation is a natural transformation, where the chemical components are transformed stabilizing the raw material. This process is fast and when fermented well, a tobacco can be stored for many years without damage.
Aging of tobacco is a slow natural evolution; the tobacco improves its characteristics and looses its green taste. Once the tobacco is blended into a cigar, it requires a new period of aging which allows it to reach a good balance between the blend components.
Why ferment tobacco?
There are several reasons the tobacco is fermented, as mentioned it allows the tobacco to be stored for longer periods of time, but it also makes the tobacco lose its raw and green taste.
Tobacco requires fermenting before it can be smoked. To ferment the tobacco it needs to be in large quantities of hundreds of pounds. The tobacco is piled up; the weight and 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 up and then rebuilt (putting the outside in and the inside out). This is done as many times as is needed until the whole pile is properly fermented.
Don’t be afraid that the tobacco might go rotten, it won’t and the fermentation process will make the tobacco smokeable.
The quality of tobacco
Every tobacco has its own fermentation process; the main factors that define the process are the texture of the material and utilization of the tobacco afterwards.
It is important to control the temperature inside the pile of tobacco for good quality. Different types of tobacco ferment better at different temperatures. If the temperature goes too high, the tobacco will deteriorate as it is cooked.
It is important to keep a close eye on the tobacco and restructure the pile as often as is needed during the process.