A Quick Harvest of Gold

The owner of finca Pancho Cuba, Francis Milian, certainly seemed excited about this year's crop. As we walked among his partially picked crop, he held one of the massive upper primings of tobacco in his hand and gleamed with pride. In nearly 10 years of visiting the plantations of the Vuelta Abajo, I have never seen such fine looking leaf of such enormous size. Milian said that the tobacco was fabulous since it could not only make giant smokes such as the Montecristo A or Punch Double Corona, but also two or three petit coronas from one leaf. He said that he had smoked all the different varieties and he couldn't tell any difference from El Corojo. "I couldn't continue to use El Corojo anyway because it almost always becomes infected with blue mold," he said. "I would lose my entire crop."

Cuban tobacco officials agree. Many say that this year's crop is going to be exceptional, citing the fabulous silky texture of each leaf to the bountiful plants in the field. Close to 41,000 acres of tobacco, both sun and shade grown, was planted for this year's harvest in the Vuelta Abajo. The four key areas include: San Juan y Martinez with approximately 10,000 acres; San Luis with about 8,100 acres; Consolacion del Sur with about 14,000 acres; and Pinar del Rio with about 8,700 acres. The first two areas account for 80 percent of all wrapper leaf production on the island.

Regardless of the quantity, I hope that the Cubans are correct in their assessment of these new leafs. If they aren't, we may have some pretty raw smokes in the future -- just like we did three or four years ago when the Cubans rushed their production of cigars. Keep your fingers crossed. Mine are.

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