I know you've seen them in your local cigar shop. In March for St Patricks Day, shops push them to the front of the shelves to catch your attention. They are those green sticks that are the shape of cigars, but defiantly don't look like the traditional maduro and connecticut wrappers you are used to. What are they? Well they happen to be one of my favorite types of cigars, and ones that will guarantee to be a good conversation starter in a crowd.
Long story short, those green leaves are in fact cigar tobacco. It just was cured very differently to speed up the process allowing it to keep its original green color. Heres how it works!
As far as we know the process originated in Cuba back in the 1940's. America was in high demand for cigars towards the end of WWII. However at this time the only cigars that was mainly imported were cigars from, you guessed it, Cuba. At the time Cubans were extremely strong, and there were no, "lighter cigars" in regards to strength. Cuba ended up with a special cigar that was sold to the Americans. Interestingly enough, candela wrapper cigars were already being rolled and smoked by locals in Cuba before being sold commercially.
To cure candela wrappers, you must cure them in a tobacco barn (also called a casa de tabacco) that has been specially prepared. The barn has to be able to retain heat at high temperature in a short period of time. So farmers would seal up cracks with cardboard or paper, and make sure the walls were adequately insulated.
The barn is loaded up with freshly picked tobacco leaves just as they would with any other harvest. However this time, the bottom of the barn will have open vents, and the very top will have an open roof vent (called a doghouse.) This is to create a specific airflow pattern that will allow the air to travel into the barn from the base, and then rise to the top of the structure.
They will then use propane heaters, charcoal fires, or oven fireplaces to create heat within the barn. Within the first two hours the temperature can reach up to 90*F, and by the third hour, temperatures of over 100*F. It only takes less than 2 days for the green leaves to wilt, losing their rigid leaf structure. This quick, "flash fire heating process" quickly removes all moisture in the leaves. Now the stems of the leaves are still rigid and full of moisture so farmers will complete aa final heating step. The bottom vents to the barn are closed and for about a day, the barn will heat up to over 165*F. This removes any and all final moisture without ruining the integrity of the leaves.
Ultimately what this does is trick the leaves into quickly absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and any excess moisture in the plant. It tricks the plant into producing sugars as if it was about to prepare for fall/winter. This process, causes the leaves to quickly lose its moisture and wilt/die. But because it is done so rapidly, the chlorophyll doesn't have enough time to react, and never loses it green color.
Once the leaves have all dried out, they will remain in the barn overnight with all of the windows opened. This will allow the evening/morning dew to rest on the leaves. This provides just enough natural moisture to allow handlers to manipulate the leaves without them cracking. Candela wrappers are very often moist, and thats from the moisture overnight.
This quick, "flash fire heating process" allows the tobacco to go straight to the sorting line to be rolled rather than set aside to ferment from months or even years! Imagine how quick this speeds up the process and why Cuba jumped on it, to be able to sell cigars to the Americans!
Candela wrappers can easily be affected by moisture but also by heat. This is why these wrappers or cigars when not being rolled, are stored in a refrigerated area. Heat will start to cause the leaves to yellow and eventually brown if not taken care of. Theres a lot of work that goes into those interesting green sticks!
Overall candela cigars tend to have flavor profiles such as barn hay, bailing hay, bonfire, fresh cut grass, green tea, dry leaves, earth moss, ferns, pine nuts, and other natural ground flavors.
A wonderful cigar for any time of the year, not just St. Patricks Day! Grab a candela wrapper cigar, and pair it with a nice cup of sweet tea.
Club President - SmokeStack