CONNECTICUT BROADLEAF CROP GROWING WELL
Due to the Covid pandemic that occured in 2020, we did not have a crop to harvest that year. However, the next crop is due to be harvested in early 2021.
The variety that will be harvested in 2021 is a different variety from the Criollo 98 we grew last year. This variety is called "Connecticut Broadleaf" and it produces very large leaves.
The crop we are growing is intended to be used for wrapping and binding the local cigars made at The Cayman Cigar Company in Bodden Town.
When harvested, the crop will be hung from a wooden lathes and set in the curing barn to cure.
RE-THATCHING THE TOBACCO DRYING BARN
The Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco will be harvested in two weeks, so the curing barn has to be ready!
The staff are busy collecting coconut fronds to patch up the areas where the thatch has thinned since last year. When this is done, the harvested tobacco leaves will be hung inside to dry.
RESEARCH GARDEN CONNECTICUT BROADLEAF TO BE HARVESTED SOON!
After a slow start, and work to develop a suitable fertilizer schedule, we can honestly say that the Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco plants in our Research Garden have produced leaves beyond our expectations. Visitors to the farm are highly impressed by the large, healthy leaves!
This crop will be harvested in the next week or two. After they are cut at the base of the stem, each plant will be hung up in our drying barn to being the curing process.
CONNECTICUT BROADLEAF HARVEST BEGINS!
The harvest of the Broadleaf Tobacco was delayed as we worked on finishing the rethatching of the curing barn. However, the harvest is now underway!
The stalks are cut in the afternoon and left in the field overnight to begin reducing the moisture in the leaves.
Because these large leaves will be used to wrap the cigars, they must be handled with care to prevent ripping.
These heavy, broadleaf plants are spaced about 1 foot apart on wood lathes to allow good airflow between the leaves. This helps to dry the leaves and reduces the chance of mildew growing on them.
Once the stalks have been secured to the the lathes they are hung up in the curing barn so the moisture in the leaves is reduced. This process needs to be monitored closely so that the correct temperature and humidity is maintained in the curing barn for optimal curing of the leaves.
The 670 Broadleaf tobacco plants that were harvested from the Research Garden have been in the curing barn since the 3rd of March.
While the plants are curing in the barn we have to monitor the humidity and temperature. During this time is has been very hot and dry so the barn has remained tightly closed to prevent the plants from drying out too quickly.
Another way to regulate the drying of the plants is to move them around in the curing barn so that the ones that need more humidity at that time are brought down, and the ones that need more air are placed higher in the barn.
By the end of May, the 670 Broadleaf tobacco plants that were hung in the curing barn were ready for the next stage of tobacco processing - Fermentation.
Before transferring the dried leaves to the Fermentation House, our staff removed them from the stalks and sorted them according to their position on the plant.
The largest leaves at the bottom are classified as "Volado". These are the leaves that make up the wrapper and binder of the cigars.
The leaves from the middle and the top of the stalks are classified as "Seco" and "Ligero", respectively and these are used to make the filler.
Once the leaves have been sorted they are bundled together and put into a box in the Fermentation House where the humidity is maintained at around 70%.
As the leaves ferment and develop their flavour they release ammonia and generate heat. When the heat in the bundles reaches 90 F, the bundles are taken out of the box and reorganized so that there is even fermentation.
FREEZING THE TOBACCO
While the Tobacco leaves have been fermenting in the Fermentation House, we've had a light infestation of cigarette beetles. These small beetles are common in the environment and are pests of stored goods, including flour and other grains.
The beetles and their larvae can do damage to the leaves especially if the numbers are high and if the infestation goes untreated for a long time.
We set traps for the beetles while the tobacco was fermenting to monitor the beetle population. We also shook out the leaves regularly to dislodge any larvae that may have been feeding on the leaves.
However, as the final destination for our tobacco is the Cayman Cigar Company, we do not want to send them tobacco leaves that could possibly be infested with this pest. Therefore, the leaves have been placed in a deep freezer to kill any remaining beetles. After this they will finally be transported to the shop where they will be rolled into lovely, Caymanian Cigars!