Day Nine – Tonight’s broadcast is not in Technicolor

Well, it happened.  I dropped my phone and it no longer works.  This unfortunately means there won’t be any pictures with tonight’s post.  And today’s activities were all about color.  I would have loved to have shown you some of what I did today.  There is always tomorrow and the iPad’s camera!  I’ll plan a trip back into this area to retake some shots so that you can visualize tonight’s post more effectively.

Today I was stationed in the postproduction area of the factory.  In this area the workers attend to cigars that have completed their aging which need their bands and cellophane (if the cigar needs one) applied before being boxed and shipped.  Right before the band is applied the cigars are gathered together and sorted according to the wrapper’s color.  This is to ensure that the same, or very similar, color cigar is in each and every box of cigars.  This may sound easier than it is.  For example, the lighter cigars are grouped and then compared.  And within this grouping there may be multiple shades of “lighter cigars.”  Now this grouping doesn’t occur in any certain order.  Whatever happens to be the first like colored cigars that are grouped together get wrapped within newspaper strips so they are more easily transported to the next process.  Not only that, but it is also up to the process I worked on today to ensure that the box count is correct as well.  Actually, that is reviewed multiple times.  This is just the first time, after the cigar ages, that the box count is verified.

Let’s just say I was glad there was lighting directly overhead.  Some of the different rosier shades were hard to distinguish.  And the darker ones weren’t any easier.  There were very minute differences in all the different color shades as well.  

I did have help today.  You see, this task is usually a single person task.  If it weren’t for the combined efforts of myself and one fabulous lady named Esmiranda I don’t think I would have been successful today.

Now if sorting the cigars by color wasn’t difficult enough, I just couldn’t master the technique of wrapping a bundle of cigars into their newspaper casing.  I’d watch the staff on the line, and they’d complete this specific task in seconds.  My first few wrappings took literally minutes.  Why I even had a bundle of wrapped cigars fall out of their [not so snug] casing a number of times.  Even the more experienced staff had this problem as well.  You see, one of the bundles Ms. Esmiranda had lovingly wrapped literally fell open on the table as we were focusing on another bundle.  

Soon enough it was unspokenly known that if I were to complete my assignments today, I’d need help.  Ms. Esmiranda was a god send.  I’d color match, she’d review, as any good supervisor should, make changes (having no ego certainly helps!), and she soon took over the task of wrapping the cigars in their newspaper casings.  Between the two of us we must have color sorted nearly 3,000 cigars today.  That may sound like a lot, and something tells me the more experienced staff members can handle a workload much larger than that.  

Throughout the day there was a young lady who carried the bundled cigars to their next process and she was continually returning back to our table, not for the next set of bundles, but to change out cigars I had missed that had quality problems.  Another aspect of this job was to lay aside any cigar that had any blemish, be it a tear, a broken cap, or discoloration in the wrapper.  These would get bundled up separately.  What ultimately happens to these rejected cigars?  My guess would be that they are cut up and used as short filler.  Again, that is only a guess.

Now as a tobacconist this color sorting doesn’t always work out with the cigars on my shelf.  The simple reason is restocking.  As a cigar retailer I can’t afford the time and effort it would take for me or my staff to ensure the wrapper colors are the same when displaying cigars on the shelf.  Sure, there are occasions when one or more of the cigar’s wrapper colors is slightly different than the others in the box on the shelf and in the end it’s the same cigar.  So, when you purchase a hand full of cigars out of a box of cigars from your favorite, or closest, tobacconist and you notice a slight color deviation simply know that you’re getting the same great cigar.  Now, when you buy a whole box, you should, 100% of the time, never notice any color deviation between any of the cigars in that box.

Until tomorrow… Long Ashes!