Second Day – Fermentation Education Continues

My education in fermentation continued today.  I am mostly learning the “how” and hope that I can reason the “why” as my time here continues (as in the construction of the piloné not why tobacco is fermented).

The team I was assigned to yesterday and I continued to work on completing the piloné move that they started last week.  Needless to say, I quickly determined NOT to continue piling the hands of tobacco on the new piloné as it became clear quite quickly that I hadn’t gotten the knack for it after just one shift.  See if you can identify the mistake from this picture.

Yesterday I described a little of the challenge I faced when separating the individual leaves in each hand.  As I worked today, I thought of a couple of metaphors to describe the manual effort it takes to do this task.

  • Untangling hair that has been tangled and matted for months
  • Unfolding the most ornate origami creation you’ve ever seen

In the end we finished moving the piloné and it felt great to accomplish a goal with one of the kindest and all-inclusive teams I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.

I asked my hosts today about tobacco beetles and fermentation.  You see, the piloné is high in moisture and generates a lot of heat both of which are needed for those eggs to hatch.  The answer I was provided was as simple one, fumigation.  AJ Fernandez has a schedule for fumigating the tobacco at specific points during the process of creating cigars.  They also immediately fumigate tobacco they buy from other farms.  According to my hosts Cuba rarely fumigates which supports my hypothesis that cigars coming from Cuba have a high probability of hatching the eggs in a humidor that isn’t properly maintained.

Before signing off for the night I wanted to show you the team’s makeup today.  There came a point late in the day when I threw my Traveler’s Quick Spanish book across the room and yelled “Basura” which elicited a long round of laughter from my team.  

I honestly wouldn’t have made the connections I’ve made without the efforts of one man, John.  He’s one of the two people that are in yesterday’s photo as well as this one.  Hint, he’s wearing the tank-top shirt in both pictures.

Tomorrow, I continue my education in fermentation and this time I’ll be working with wrapper tobacco (capa).  I am worried as I imagine I’ll make one basic mistake, tears.  Wrapper is the most expensive tobacco, and it is quite literally handled with a gentle touch.  We’ll see how I do as I am scheduled to be in that fermentation room for two days.

Until tomorrow, may your cigar never go out and your ash hold until the end!