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Photo Essay: A Visit to the Connecticut River Valley

30 Aug 2017

Growing up in New York and going to college in Maine, I have many friends from Connecticut. Cigar geeks aside, few realize that not only does Connecticut grow tobacco, but some of the most expensive and sought-after premium cigar wrapper is grown in the Nutmeg State. Recently I visited the Connecticut River Valley (north of Hartford) to see the farms there during the growing season, which runs from summer to early fall. Below are some of the photos from the trip.

One of the most notable things you quickly see is how each type of tobacco is grown differently to maximize qualities sought in the wrapper they hope it will become. (Inevitably, some leaves will end up as binder or filler; that said, leaves are grown with the intention and hope that they become wrapper, which commands the highest price.)

 

Sun-grown tobacco is topped (the flower at the top is removed) and lower leaves are removed early to maximize the nutrients that reach the leaves intended for tobacco. (Yes, the photo at the top is of the Habano leaf that will eventually become the Partagas Black.)

Increasingly, the leaves are then stalk-cured (the ones I saw were speared through the center of the stalk to kick-start curing) so the flavor of the nicotine in the stalk can continue to move into the leaves.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Connecticut Shade tobacco, which is processed to keep the leaf thin and light. In addition to netting, flowers remain and all the leaves are left on so they don’t get too thick.

Leaves are sewn individually for curing, instead of being left on the stalk.

In addition, fields are left to fallow one year out of three, and rye is frequently grown (then plowed over) in the off-season to replenish nutrients in the soil.

This is big business for Connecticut farmers, with each curing barn holding up to half a million dollars worth of tobacco, depending on the leaf type. Connecticut Shade is still the most expensive leaf grown in Connecticut, but Broadleaf and Habano are also grown in ample quantities.

If you are in the area in the late summer, drive around and you shouldn’t have too much trouble spotting tobacco fields. For those not lucky enough to visit foreign tobacco growing regions, Connecticut is the most accessible place to see the tobacco that ends up as a key component of the handmade cigars we enjoy.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

3 Responses to “Photo Essay: A Visit to the Connecticut River Valley”

  1. Reggie72 Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    What is it specifically about the Conn River Valley that makes it so perfect for the production of cigar wrapper leaf? In other words, I would think places like PA, VA, NC, MA, etc. would offer similar climates and soil types. But, while I know some Broadleaf is grown in PA, it seems like CT has a virtual monopoly on premium cigar wrapper production (as far as the U.S. is concerned). Would be interested to hear if you learned about this.

    • The Stogie Guys Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      There is no simple answer but largely it is a combination of climate and soil matching up with the needs of the plants. (This is also true of the Pinar del Rio in Cuba or the best wine regions in the world.)

      One of the things I was told during my visit is that the Connecticut River Valley is ideal because an average night during the Summer when they grow tobacco is 70% humidity and 70 degrees F. Tobacco actually grows mostly at night and that level of overnight humidity is ideal for promoting that growth.

  2. Cigar Seeker Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Thanks for this. I have from time to time wondered whether the term “Connecticut” was a generic tobacco term of some sort, having nothing to do with the actual state. It’s hard to believe tobacco is actually grown there, since weather conditions are so much different from the typical tropical-type areas where most cigar tobacco comes from. Places like Florida and the Carolinas, OK. Not so warm as the tropics, but still relatively warm. But Connecticut? One imagines the piles of winter snow in New England, not lush tobacco fields. Your article shows otherwise. Thanks again.

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