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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 1)

CA: In your opinion, why were the other growers' yields so low?

Robaina: It could have been that they had problems with their fields. I remember that we had this big meeting with Carlos Perez, who was then the minister of agriculture, in San Juan y Martínez. I remember him saying that the state farms only achieved 0.8 percent yields and some individual farms made 4 percent. My outcome, with 36 percent, was one of the best. I had to resort to all of my father's and grandfather's experience to save the situation.

CA: Is one of the reasons that you achieved that level of yield because you work as a family?

Robaina: Yes. We are a close family and we work together. But the other reason is the love that I have for the land and the care I put into it. If I didn't prepare the land with the high concentration of organic fertilizers as I do, it would have been impossible to accomplish the results I had in such a bad year.

CA: What about the influence of new tobacco varieties, such as Habanos 2000?

Robaina: I was the first to plant Habanos 2000 here in Cuba and the results were very good, but nowadays, Habanos 2000 has lost quality to the point that I am not planting it anymore. It's prone to blue mold and black shank. Plus, there are now other seeds that have much better quality.

CA: Do you mean that you like such new varieties as Criollo 98 and Corojo 99 better?

Robaina: Yes, I like them much better. These plants are much more resistant to blue mold.

CA: Yes, but what about the flavor?

Robaina: Well, the flavor I feel is much better also. These have higher quality than Habanos 2000. In my opinion the Habanos 2000 is excessively fragile. These new seeds have higher quality. I have had better results with Corojo 98 and Criollo 99. This year I planted both.

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