Day Eight – Vascular Surgeon Now On Staff

Today I was back in the sorting room.  Today was different than the other day for one primary reason.  In addition to sorting the tobacco leaves I also had to de-vein the tobacco.  There was one other difference, the tobacco was sorted into three separate piles: good, bad, and wrapper.  

Now I was exposed to de-veining back in the fall of 2009 and I couldn’t do it then, so I started the day with a little fear.  However, after being shown step-by-step I was able to reproduce the technique I was shown (a first for this trip I assure you).  However, I think it helped that the tobacco was well hydrated.

Here are three pictures that hopefully demonstrate the technique.

What may not be easily seen in these pictures is that we started by gently coaxing the vein from the top side of the leaf on the end of the leaf that is opposite from where the vein was attached to the stalk of the plant, then we continued pulling on the vein as we wrapped the tobacco around our hand.  Once the vein was removed, we had two halfs of the same tobacco leaf which was then sorted.  Now in the above picture you can see a tall pile closest to the young woman demonstrating the technique and a smaller pile closer to the picture’s observer.  The larger pile was the good pile and the smaller pile was the bad pile.  Now today’s definition of good or bad had more to do with colorization of the leaf than anything else.  Particular attention was given to smaller veins in the leaf which were white in color (bad pile) as well any other areas of decolorization.  However, as I knew this was intended to be used a wrapper, I knew to separate out leaves which had large holes in it as well.

The tobacco we were sorting and de-veining was broadleaf, that heavy tobacco that I discussed a few days ago where the hands were held together by a leaf of tobacco.  Now I am not proposing that the tobacco we worked with today was the exact same tobacco.  It just couldn’t be as there hasn’t been that much time for the tobacco to ferment that I work on the other day.

The only other thing to note is that the discarded veins were collected and weighed twice during the day, once before lunch and once before leaving for the day.  I can only infer that this is how they monitor production – by the scrap created.  Again, these statements come from my observations and will need to be verified with my host at the next available opportunity.

Before I forget, I mentioned yesterday that the tobacco at the factory is hydrated often, as I’ve recently discovered.  This hydration doesn’t end in the fermentation rooms.  I witnessed plenty of sorting/de-veining tables with squirt bottles and everyone seemed to be misting the tobacco they were working on throughout the day.  Fortunately for me the tobacco I worked with was well hydrated.  In fact, it had so much moisture that there were times the tobacco literally stuck to my hands which made for an interesting de-veining process.

There isn’t too much more to tell about today.  I will say that I was close enough to the office’s Wi-Fi that I was able to listen to my music for most of the day.  And it was really a day for me to be the monkey behind glass at the zoo.  The ladies that were all around me had a great time laughing at my dancing, my expletives when the veins wouldn’t cooperate, and my backache stretches.  I have no idea what they said, and I am happy that I brought them some laughter to brighten their day.

Until tomorrow – Long Ashes!