What is a Cuban cigar

The Havana cigar

Good cigars all round

Experts recognize a good cigar by its silky sheen and the slightly greasy wrapper. The coveted quality mark on the cigar boxes is called "Hecho en Cuba, totalmente a mano" (Made in Cuba, completely handcrafted). Street vendors on every corner offer the "real Havanas" at rock-bottom prices.

There are a few tricks to identify counterfeits: In addition to the cigars, which must be exactly the same length, color and thickness, the box also provides information. A piece of cedar wood should be placed between the two layers. There must be two stamps on the back of the box: the branded inscription "Habanos" and two lines of a letter code. A green and white guarantee seal on the left front should seal the box.

Street trading is also illegal: if you can't show a bill from the foreign exchange shop at the airport, you can get rid of your treasures quickly. In October 1999, Cuba also introduced a forgery-proof seal that is supposed to make the black market more difficult.

Cigar production

The steps from sowing to storage of the tobacco follow a very complex procedure that can take up to three years. The tobacco leaves are picked from January to March. Then they are hung up to dry for about seven weeks. They are then fermented for three months: the tobacco heats up in meter-high stacks and thus develops its special aroma. Only the best wrapper leaves are stored in wooden barrels for a third fermentation.

A Havana then essentially consists of a cover sheet, lower cover sheet and filling. Although there are only two types of tobacco leaves in each cigar, many different brands can be composed. For a good Havana, you usually mix two to five different sheets of paper as a filling, around which the underside sheet and the cover sheet are then wrapped.

Selection and export

True "aficionados", as the cigar lovers call themselves, appreciate their own brand: Fidel Castro was attached to his Cohiba, Churchill loved the "Romeo y Julieta" from Havana. Original cigars of all brands are shown and sold in the tobacco museum "Casa del Habano" in Havana. There is also a limited choice in larger hotels and at the airport.

There is a rule of thumb for the strength of cigar tobacco, according to which the lighter-colored cigars are the lightest - but it is not always true. The following applies for orientation:

Doble claro - very bright, very light
Claro - tobacco yellow, light, fine aroma
Colorado - medium brown and a bit stronger
Maduro - dark brown, ripe and fragrant
Oscuro - rare, very strong cigars for the seasoned smoker

Each person can export 50 cigars to Germany duty-free. All other cigars must be taxed. The customs office points out that for tobacco products you can take either 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars with you duty-free. The number can also be divided into percentages - 50 cigarillos and 25 cigars would be duty-free, for example.

This is how you smoke Havana

There is a three-point plan for properly enjoying a Havana:

  • Prepare: A clean notch should be cut at the end of the mouth. If the tobacco is too dry, it can be moistened with the lips.
  • Lighting: The cigar should be held with the lips slightly downwards and lightly rotated with one hand in a small, even flame. The cover sheet and filling must glow evenly.
  • Smoking: Taste the smoke in your mouth for a few seconds, do not inhale, do not expel the ashes with force. Only two thirds of the cigar is smoked, then it usually goes out by itself.

Authors: Britta Schwanenberg / Ildiko Holderer