Today our class toured the Real Fabrica de Tabaco Partagas cigar factory. Real Fabrica de Tabaco Partagas, founded in 1845, is Cuba’s largest and well-known cigar factory. The factory employs over 400 workers who typically work a 12-hour day. The Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas is housed in a well-preserved industrial building dating back from the mid 1800s. The building stands out amongst other nearby buildings because of the colourful and ornate maroon and cream exterior. Currently, the original factory building described is undergoing renovations and is being housed is a large four-story building until the renovations are completed. The Real Fabrica de Tabaco Partagas cigar factory has seven brands of cigars. The brands are differentiated by the pattern of the tobacco leaves inside at the type of tobacco. Each of the seven brands comes from seven different tobacco plantations in Cuba. The factory produces 25,000 to 27,000 cigars a day. All cigar factory workers have to go through nine months of training in a classroom located in the factory where they learn all of the steps of hand rolling the cigars. The cigar factory workers are well paid by Cuban standards, which is still not that much.
During the tour, we were shown the process of manufacturing cigars step by step. In the first step of the manufacturing process, the tobacco leaves are unbundled and sorted. In the second step, the tobacco leaves are moistened using water. The third step is putting together the filler, which is composed of four tobacco leaves. The leaves are rolled then put in a mold and pressed for 20 minutes. After the cigar is pressed, the filler is then rolled in the outer leaf. In the fourth step of the process the cigars. The fourth steps entails putting the label ring around the cigar. The cigars are then sorted by color. Tobacco leaves vary in color, some being lighter and darker than others. Workers match and group the like color cigars when placing them in the box. The factory manufactures its own cigar boxes. The boxes are made of wood. The paper labels and lining of the box are applied with paste. The cigars are then placed in the boxes. After the cigars are completed, quality control examiners test one from every batch. The examiners light a cigar to test how they smoke and split them down the middle to examine the inside.
One of the most famous brands of Cuban cigars is the Cohiba brand. The Cohiba cigar brand was first introduced in 1968 and was originally reserved for diplomatic use only. A bodyguard of Fidel Castro shared some of his private supply of cigars made by a local artisan named Eduardo Ribera. These cigars pleased Castro so much that a special production of the unbranded blend, produced under tight security, was made for Castro and other top government officials. In 1982, three types of Cohiba Cuban cigars were introduced to non-diplomats. The tobacco used for the manufacturing of this line is very special. The Cohiba is not a major production. It is very limited due to the quality of the harvest. The Cohiba tobacco is harvested in plantations selected in Vuelta Abajo (Pinar del Rio province). In terms of the fillers, Cohiba uses the best leaves of the best fine sunny plantations in Pinar del Rio, from San Luis and San Juan.