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Cigar Aficionado's Glossary
of Cigar Terms

Cigars encased with candela wrapper.
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Candela:

A green shade of wrapper tobacco (see photo), achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. Also referred to as double claro. From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were candelas. They were so popular in the United States that the term American Market Seletion (abbreviated as AMS) was created by the major importer of Cuban cigars at the time to designate green or candela colored wrappers.

To make candela, a tobacco barn (or casa de tabacco) has to be properly prepped. The walls of the wooden barn are wallpapered with cardboard or paper to seal the cracks. The barn is loaded with freshly harvested tobacco, and the vents at the bottom of the barn are opened, encouraging air to flow out of the roof vent (known as a doghouse), which is always open. The propane heaters or charcoal fires are lit, and the heat slowly rises, taking the moisture out of the leaves. "The objective is to get air flowing through the tobacco, up and out of the doghouse," says Gustavo Cura, the operations administrator for Oliva Tobacco Co. in Tampa, which grows candela in Ecuador and Honduras. "The heat has to start slowly." Within two hours, the heat will be at about 90 degrees, and by hour No. 3, it will rise to 100. After 40 to 48 hours, the tobacco has wilted. The leaf is dry at this point, save for the stem, which takes much more coercing to dry out than the rest of the plant. The farmers shut the bottom vents in the barn and crank the heat to 165 degrees to remove the remaining moisture from the stem. This final step lasts for about one day, and bakes the tobacco as dry as a potato chip. After 60 to 72 hours total in the barn, the chlorophyll has been locked in the leaf and the tobacco is done heating, but needs to be rehumidified so it can be safely removed from the barn. Workers open the barn's vent doors and windows (unless it's windy), allowing the nighttime dew to make the crispy leaves moist again; if the climate is too dry, they bring in a steamer. Then, the leaves are taken down, sorted and graded, and put into boxes, ready for storage or for rolling. The fire curing eliminates the need for fermentation and aging, cutting months and even years off the typical process.

Sunlight will make candela leaf lighter, while heat will darken the color. Candela wrapper can't be stored in normal tobacco warehouses; instead it's kept refrigerated. Water can stain it, so a roller has to know what he's doing in order to make a candela cigar by hand. Because it's the process that makes candela, rather than the seed or country of origin, candela wrappers are grown in a host of countries.

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