Jochen Weber - Photography |  Photo Documentaries

 A Visit to the Tobacco
page 2

Small farmers

Brazilian tobacco is grown not only on the grounds of the big firms, but also on the fields of many small planters. The tobacco grown here has a succinct flavor, for which it is well known and well liked in the world markets.

The tobacco factories in the region work closely with these small farmers. The Dannemann Company delivers tobacco seeds to chosen farmers, so that good quality tobacco can be produced for the filling and binder of the Mata Fina cigars (For e.g. Artist Line).

Tobacco drying by small farmers

The farmers of Recôncavo dry their tobacco even today, together with the stems, in total contrast to the single leaf drying carried out in other regions, or by the wrapper leaves. This rare variation of drying gives the tobacco, through the interaction between the dried leaf and the harvested part of the stem, a special flavour and extra spice.  

The bundles of tobacco are hung for air-drying with varied coloured stings for about 30 days, so that the farmer knows later, which tobacco from which part of the field hangs here drying. The interplay between optimal climactic conditions, well-balanced mix of minerals in the ground, traditional plucking of shrubs and special fermentation methods gives the tobacco of Mata Fina its matchless flavour.




The arrival of tobacco into Dannemann

Like the other cigar factories, Dannemann also buys tobacco from the small farmers of the region. Angelo Pinto, Production Chief of Dannemann in Cruz das Almas, examines the quality (including temperature) of the tobacco on its arrival. According to the results of the quality check, he classifies the tobacco and displays the result instantaneously with the help of small number plates. Based on the quality groups the female workers sort the tobacco on a specific conveyor belt, which is indicted with a number plate (here, the number 3). Before the assorted tobacco passes over the conveyor belt to the fermentation house, it is loosened by the workers and whirled rigorously. This serves to ferment it better and helps to avoid mould.




The female workers stack up the Brazilian tobacco for the so-called “natural fermentation” in 3x5 meter high stacks. The fermentation process is set off by the inherent pressure of the tobacco itself. Through the resulting heat, the sugar, protein and the nicotine in the tobacco are further broken down; the process that had started with the drying is now further strengthened. The leaves become elastic and develop a natural tobacco fragrance.

The ideal fermentation temperature lies at about 55°C, a higher temperature damages the quality of the tobacco – that is why it is checked several times on a daily basis. After about 10-15 days, the labourers manually rearrange the stack by which mould is avoided - just like the fermentation of cocoa. This process takes place every 10-15 days, and is repeated all together about ten times – till the tobacco is completely fermented. Angelo Pinto determines this through the dropping temperature.

After numerous tests, the specialists at Danneman have determined that a controlled, minimal oxygen supply in the middle of the tobacco stack, or rather when spread evenly across the stack, improves the fermentation process, (a hose sprays inside the stack). Therefore better cigar tobacco is produced through natural ways.

Demonstration of the burning behaviour of a tobacco leaf

The sorting and storage of tobacco leaves

The wrapper leaves are already separated for the filling and binders before the fermentation; they are also further sorted for shape, size, thickness, structure, colour and quality. The leaves are thus selected for various types of cigars. After the sorting, the leaves are packed in balls and stored at 18°C to ‘rest’ for about a year! After a year the leaves are moistened lightly before further processing.



The Centro Cultural Dannemann

Gerhard (Geraldo) Dannemann founded the first cigar factory in 1873 in the Recôncavo, in the small town of São Félix. The Centro Cultural Dannemann is located in a renovated colonial building, the front part of which is used for art exhibitions and cultural functions.

The building is situated on the esplanade and the big windows offer a beautiful scenic view of Rio Paraguaçú and Cachoeira, the partner city of São Félix

The cigar manufacturing takes place at the back of the building, where even today, Longfillers are made entirely by hand. The women rollers are specially trained for the manual production of the cigars.

At the edge of the hall is a small altar with Saint Antony from Padua, who is popular in the whole of Latin America, be it for His benevolence or miracles. Reading aloud, as was once a custom inherited from Cuba, is now no longer done here.

These traditional manufacturers can be visited during work hours; a visit to these friendly and skilled people is worthwhile, it is indeed an experience. 

© Copyright: Photos and text: Jochen Weber 

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