For almost 200 years Habanos cigars - apart from a few brands and formats - have been made almost exclusively by hand. The filler is basically made of whole, uncut leaves: the classic Havana cigar:
Habanos - Totalmente a mano, Tripa larga.
For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that some brands/sizes are made entirely by hand, but the inlay contains leaf parts with a shorter cut. They are called:
Habanos - Totalmente a mano, Tripa corta.
Very few stamps/sizes are machine-made, naturally from Cuban tobacco.
The preparation of the cigar wrapper
After maturing, the cigar wrappers are ready for the final selection and grading; now their veins are also removed (debudding), after previous moistening.
The bundles of 40 to 50 leaves each are hung in special devices and sprayed with clear water to give them a silky appearance and elasticity. Excess water drops are shaken off so that the sensitive leaf surfaces do not get stained. This is followed by stripping (Despalillo) and final sorting of the cigar wrappers (Rezagado) according to approx. 20 size classes and colour gradations.
The preparation of the insert sheets
The inlays and cover sheets are checked again and, if necessary, subjected to a ventilation process to remove excess moisture. They are then stored in wooden barrels until ready for use.
The composition of the tobacco blend (Ligada)
Long before the sackcloth bales arrive at the factory, the blends for each individual Havana brand are put together according to the specific recipe. Production planning in the factory determines the brands and formats to be produced. The mixing master (Maestro Ligador) draws up the list of all the tobacco leaves he needs for production and orders them from the central warehouse.
Leaves from different regions of origin in Cuba differ significantly in taste. The "Vegas Finas de Primera", for example, have a wide range of different flavours on relatively small areas of cultivation.
The tobacco grown on one side of the road through the Vuelta Abajo can taste completely different from the tobacco grown on the other side.
Each cigar factory has its own regular suppliers who supply them with the required leaves from their respective regions. Nevertheless, the Ligador takes random samples every day, only he knows the recipe for each format of a brand and is responsible for it.
The Ligador determines the ratio of the different leaf types for each cigar. The department for the blends (Ligadas) is called "La Barajita" (shuffling of playing cards). It produces batches in precisely defined proportions, which it hands over to the cigar makers (torcedores) every day.
More than three years after the first leaf is harvested, it becomes part of a Habano.
Almost all Habanos cigars are produced by the cigar roller, the Torcedor (or Torcedora) always in the same way. There are four different categories of the Torcedores. Only those of the highest category are allowed to roll the larger and difficult to produce Habanos cigars. If the format (vitola) is complicated, only about 60 pieces of a Torcedor are produced per day.
For the production of a Habanos cigar only a few tools are needed:
A wooden board, two cutters - a special blade (Chaveta) and a tube (Casquillo) - a guillotine, a pot with natural, tasteless vegetable glue (Goma) and a gauge, to check length and diameter (Cepo, ring gauge) of the cigar. But the most important thing of all is: many years of practice.
Traditionally, the Torcedores are "entertained" by a reader (Lector) during their work; he reads from newspapers or books (very popular in the 19th century for example: Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo - hence the brand name of the cigar). Of course, texts for political edification are also presented...