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Cuba's Cigar Legend, Alejandro Robaina

The dean of Cuban tobacco men and his grandson, Hiroshi, discuss the state of cigars in their homeland in a wide-ranging interview.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Camilo Villegas, July/August 2006

(continued from page 3)

Hiroshi: Remember that now we have a new tapado system that doesn't let anything through! We planted 10,000 organic seedlings under this new tapado this year, and we had no problem.

Robaina: This tapado is new in Cuba but also worldwide. This system is totally new to everybody. It's a major step forward in the sense that there was no need to apply insecticides at all…our harvest was wonderful…the only problem was that the roof was dark-colored and we have to replace it.

CA: Doesn't the traditional Corojo leaf have more oil?

Robaina: Yes, traditional Corojo was the very best tobacco we had here in Cuba, and the old Criollo was the best of the sun-grown tobacco. I know Criollo seeds are still around. The government's Experimental Center has some left.

CA: Does the government have "Corojo tradicional" seeds as well?

Robaina: Yes, they have it. A few days ago I was asking about this because I am considering, for the next harvest, the idea of planting a bit of Criollo tradicional.

CA: Isn't the yield of Criollo tradicionalcomparatively lower to the new varieties?

Robaina: Yes, it did produce lower yields. But the quality was higher. That is why I disagree in using seeds that have high yield rates. This goes along with what I have told you before: a lot and good do not walk together. That seed that the scientist mentioned, the one that would yield 20, 30 or so leaves? I disagree with him because the important question is this: what will happen with all that tobacco when it gets cured? Around 25 years ago I planted one kind of seed throughout the entire plantation. I remember that we collected what was called el vizcaíno. I planted with a set price, whether it was a good or bad harvest. The yield was very high. But that wrapper was a disaster. The entire wrapper harvest was lost at the curing stage.

CA: Isn't the Criollo tradicional smaller in size?

Robaina: Yes. Its leaves are moderate in size.

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