Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Updating the Cohiba
By Nick Foulkes | NEWSWEEK
Published Jan 15, 2010

It is a warm and slightly sticky late November afternoon inside the
early-20th-century mansion that houses the global headquarters of
Habanos SA, the body that markets Havana cigars. Fierce sunlight
negotiates the fragrant blue cigar smoke and falls onto the boardroom
table along with a sudden silence. I have just uttered two words that
seem to have the magical power of a Harry Potter incantation: medio
tiempo. In the Cuban cigar industry, this refers to a pair of small
leaves at the very top of the tobacco plant—and not just any tobacco
plant, but a talismanic, semimythical variety that in the past was used
only occasionally. Accordingly, true cigar devotees reserve a
room-silencing reverence for these hallowed leaves.

To be fair, I had never heard of medio tiempo until earlier that day,
when I discovered during a tour of El Laguito factory that these leaves
formed part of a new blend being reintroduced in that most revolutionary
of brands: Cohiba. Before the distinctive black-and-yellow band of the
Cohiba became a badge of plutocracy, it was the favored smoke of Cuba's
revolutionary elite. The story goes that in 1963, Castro's driver was
sitting in El Comandante's Oldsmobile enjoying a cigar rolled for him by
a friend. Castro was so impressed by the lingering aroma that he asked
for one. He enjoyed it enough to have its roller, Eduardo Rivera,
summoned from his torcedor's bench and entrusted with the solemn
responsibility of rolling the leader's cigars. For security reasons
Rivera was moved between factories and sometimes rolled cigars at home;
even when a factory was established to make Cohibas, it was a
high-security site due to rumors that the CIA was pondering the
deployment of an exploding cigar against the Maximum Leader. To this
day, an aura of secrecy surrounds the brand, and it remains by far the
most difficult cigar factory to visit. That fact that, like all Cuban
cigars, Cohibas cannot be legally imported to the U.S. only adds to
their mystique.

Soon these long, elegant cigars became as much a part of the
revolutionary look as facial hair and military fatigues, thanks to Che
Guevara's pronouncement that he had never smoked a better cigar. They
were named Cohibas after the Taino Indian word for the bunched tobacco
leaves that Columbus first saw the island's inhabitants smoking.

Today Che is dead, Castro no longer smokes cigars, and Cohiba has gone
public, accounting for about 20 percent in value—but only 12 percent in
quantity—of the country's annual cigar production. There are now more
than a dozen different sizes of Cohibas, ranging from the anorexic
Panetela to the chunky Siglo VI. What accounts for Cohiba's reputation
(and its price) is the quality of the tobacco harvested from the five
best plantations in the Vuelta Abajo area and the extra fermentation of
the filler leaves, which provide a cigar's flavor. While the leaves in
ordinary cigars are fermented twice, those used in Cohibas are fermented
three times, lowering the acidity and nicotine content and enhancing the

But how do you make the best better? This was the question facing Cuba's
cigar industry as it sought to appease aficionados who longed for a
richer, larger cigar. Until recently, conventional wisdom held that
Cuban cigars should be filled with three types of tobacco leaves. The
volados, which have little flavor, are at the bottom of the plant, and
their primary function is combustibility. Seco leaves from the middle of
the plant impart some flavor and aroma, while the ligero leaves, which
come from the plant's top, are responsible for a cigar's power. To this
triumvirate, we must now add medio tiempo as the fourth and final tier.

The first handmade postrevolution cigars containing medio tiempo will
make their debut next month, with the launch of the hefty Cohiba Behike.
The diameter of a cigar is determined in ring-gauge points, each of
which is 1/64th of an inch. The original Cohiba, the Lancero, is a
38-ring gauge; by contrast these new Behikes are available in only 52-,
54-, and 56-ring gauges in ascending lengths—in other words, L, XL, and
XXL sizes. While in Cuba, I was fortunate enough to taste one of these
monsters, on the understanding that this was an experimental cigar and
that the blend still had to be finalized.

In addition to a slightly dislocated jaw, I came away from the encounter
with a renewed respect for the Cohiba brand. The surprise is that for
all medio tiempo's much-vaunted strength, this was not an overpowering
cigar; instead it had all those wine-tastery notes of cedar wood and
vanilla, delivering its subtle flavors with a delicious rounded
creaminess. The Cohiba Behike will be made in very small numbers, and
for aficionados of the Havana cigar it will deliver an almost religious
experience. So the most fitting description I can find is in the Old
Testament Book of Judges, which perfectly sums up the appeal of the
Behike with the words "Out of the strong came forth sweetness."

Rare Tobacco Leaves Infuse Cuba's Cohiba Cigars – (15
January 2010)

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