Te-Amo's Alberto and Alejandro Turrent
The father-son team that runs Mexico's largest cigar-tobacco operation and makes the famous Te-Amo brand discusses the family's 110-year history of growing in that country.
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, January/February 2009
Alberto and Alejandro Turrent, owners of Nueva Matacapan de Tabacos S.A. de C.V., are the first family of Mexico's cigar industry. The father-son team not only makes Mexico's best-known cigar, Te-Amo, but is the largest grower of cigar tobacco in the country. The San Andrés maduro leaf the two men grow outside of Veracrúz is world renowned for its quality, and a variety of their tobaccos are important components in many of America's most popular premium cigar brands. Sales of the Te-Amo brand have historically been most strong in New York City, which the Turrents visit regularly. On the eve of their debut of the new A. Turrent 6 Generations brand, Alberto, 66, and Alejandro, 35, sat down in Manhattan with senior editor David Savona for a discussion about their past, present and future.
Patriarch Alberto Turrent got a humble start in the family business, driving tobacco trucks.
David Savona: Señor Turrent, when did you begin working in the cigar business?
Alberto Turrent: November 1960. I finished school, and I went to work with my father. I was 22. I finished school in Mexico City. My parents said, "You finished your studies? Now you go to work."
Q: What was your first job at the company?
Alberto Turrent: Driving a truck, moving tobacco leaves.
Q: So your father didn't just put you in the office.
Alberto Turrent: No. He said, "Can you drive?" I was expected to drive a truck.
Alberto Turrent: At the farm, moving people, moving bales of tobacco.
Q: What was the company like in 1960?
Alberto Turrent: We were exporting mostly tobacco to Europe. We began to make business with the United States after the embargo [on Cuba].
Q: What about cigars? Were you making Te-Amos at the time?
Alberto Turrent: No, we were making cigars just for the domestic market. Te-Amo came in 1966, '68.
Q: So you were growing lots of tobacco then?
Alberto Turrent: Yes, mostly tobacco leaves to Europe. Mostly maduro wrappers. Q: Are your maduro wrappers called San Andrés Negro, or San Andrés Tuxla? I've heard them called both.
Alberto Turrent: San Andrés Tuxla is the name of the town. The name of the tobacco is San Andrés Negro, or San Andrés Criollo. That is the seed that we got a long time ago. At that time, we were competing with Colombia and Brazil.
Q: So the Cuban embargo led to your company starting business in the United States, selling tobacco. Was it a big jump for your company?
Alberto Turrent: We grew more tobacco. At that time, we started to grow Sumatra seed. Originally it was San Andrés Negro only. The Sumatra [tobacco] was planted by a Dutch company. They tried to make a business in Mexico. They stayed for two or three years. They tried to get some compensation from the Mexican government. The government said no, and they left. We got the seeds from them. One day before they left, one guy [from the Dutch company] was drinking with my cousin, and he said, "We are leaving tomorrow. And we are going to destroy all the seed plants." My cousin was working at that time in San Andrés. He took some plants and he kept them.
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