Where cigar tobacco grows

Where does cigar tobacco grow? Maybe the better question is where doesn’t it? We tend to associate tobacco with southern states and tropical climates, but it’s an amazingly adaptable plant and it can put down roots almost anywhere, which is why you can find antique cigar molds and presses in the northern reaches of the United States—for many years, in fact, Ohio was the center of cigar manufacturing in the Midwest U.S.

But certain parts of the world yield better cigar tobacco than others. Soil content and climate have a lot to do with it, which is why the vast majority of tobacco grown for cigars comes from places where the ground is rich and loamy and it’s moist and mild year round. Growing conditions also affect how tobacco tastes—tobacco grown from a certain type of seed in countries other than where that seed originated from won’t taste exactly the same as the original.

Here, in somewhat of a particular order, are the world’s major cigar tobacco growing areas and some general comments on the kinds of tobacco grown in them.

Dominican Republic—Long a leader in tobacco production and still where the majority of premium cigars are made. Most noted for long-leaf filler but also yields impressive wrappers thanks to the Fuente family’s efforts. Rich, full-flavored tobacco, reflecting the Cuban-seed heritage that’s behind most of it.

Cuba—Simply the home of some of the world’s finest tobacco, now and probably forever. Of the island’s growing areas, the best known is the Vuelta Abajo region, located on the west, which produces shade-grown wrapper and filler tobacco. As a rule, Cuban tobacco is full-bodied with mouth-filling spice and aroma.

Ecuador—Living under a cloud can be a good thing when you’re a tobacco plant. The almost perpetual cloud cover over this South American country produces exquisite shade-grown wrappers, with a mild yet flavorful taste. Connecticut and Sumatra seed is the heritage of the tobacco here, which also finds its way into some filler blends. Also noted for darker, sun-grown wrappers.

Honduras—With the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, one of the largest producers of non-Havana premium cigars in the world. Tobacco grown here is characteristically rich and somewhat spicy.

Nicaragua—Growing conditions here are said to rival those of Cuba, and close ties between the two countries result in tobacco that rivals the best of what Cuba has to offer as well. Prized for wrapper and filler, Nicaraguan tobacco is full-bodied and can be spicy and/or somewhat sweet tasting.

United States—The Connecticut River Valley is legendary for its wrapper leaf tobacco and you’ll find it on some of the world’s best cigars. Connecticut Shade, the best-known, is grown under huge tents and is prized for its mild, neutral flavor. Connecticut Broadleaf, grown in the sun, is coarser, darker, sweeter, and typically used to make maduro-style cigars.

Cameroon/Central African Republic—Primarily known for wrapper leaves, which are medium to dark reddish-brown and range from fairly mild to richly flavored with a characteristic spiciness. Cameroon wrappers typically look a little bumpy—this is from small oil pockets in the leaf that, when burned, unleash the tobacco’s flavor. This is known as “tooth,” and while Cameroon wrappers are noted for it, they’re not the only ones that have it.

Brazil—Two growing regions here produce medium to full-bodied tobacco for filler and wrappers.

Mexico—Produces binder, filler, and wrapper tobacco in several tobacco-growing areas. Most noted for binder leaf and somewhat spicy maduro wrappers, often on the dry side when compared with other dark wrappers.

Sumatra/Java—Noted for the seed that originated here and now grown in a number of other countries. Often used for wrappers, this leaf is typically dark brown and mild to neutral in flavor.