Jochen Weber - Photography |  Photo Documentaries

A Visit to the Tobacco
page 3

The Production of Cigars

Since 1873, when Gerhard (Geraldo) opened his cigar factory in São Félix, cigars were produced manually in the region and also in this building, among others. The cigar rollers are called torcedores (m) or torcedoras (f) in international literature of cigars. In Brazil, where this profession is primarily practiced by women, the expression charuteiras, which originates from charuto [pron: sharuto], Portuguese for cigar, is also used. A proficient charuteira can, on a given day, produce up to 200 top-cigars. 

"A cigar can be sometimes just a cigar."
(Siegmund Freud)

Cris, charuteira

Composition of tobacco

The tobacco composition of the cigar follows a specific and always similar, “blueprint” for each type of cigar. These blueprints determine, how many leaves from which type of tobacco and from which part of the plant the charuteiras can blend together for a cigar. This tobacco is called filler tobacco (Portuguese: ‘tripa’ or also ‘miolo’).

The various leaves of a tobacco plant - that is the middle, main and upper parts are mixed here. The robust leaves from the upper part are called ‘ligeros’, the leaves in the middle of the main part are called ‘secos’, and they have a semi-strong taste. The mildest leaves come from the lowest part of the plant - the middle part – these are ‘volados’. The combination of the three types (‘blend’) together with the wrapper leaf determines the typical taste of every cigar. 

The blueprint of the ‘Robusto’ style hangs on the rolling table          

Hand rolling the cigars

The quantity of tobacco, the leaf distribution, and the pressure strength during the rolling of the tobacco, the so-called “hand rolling”, determine the later resistance and flammability of the finished cigar: once pulled, the smoke flows through the air ducts and when the correct density is produced, it determines the intensity of the cigar and only then the fragrance of the tobacco leaves best unfold.

The charuteiras find irregularities during rolling by touch and balance these out with tobacco parts, so that the cigar is evenly made and also looks uniform. Such cigars, which are made entirely out of tobacco leaves are called longfiller – in contrast to the cheaper shortfiller, which are only made out of cut or torn tobacco. 

Binder and paper wrapping

After the rolling, the tobacco filling is wrapped with the binder (‘capote’), which gives it shape and stability. Normally the binder is derived from the middle part of the plant. From this only very large, firm and beautiful leaves are chosen. For the binder, the main or the middle rib is removed for further processing, which could cause a hindrance later while smoking. It can be seen here very well through the removal of the middle rib, how elastic and firm the tobacco leaves really are. This phase of a cigar (tobacco filling plus binder) is also called “filler” or “wrap”.  

In order to strengthen the shape of the filler, it is not pressed for e.g., in wooden moulds like in Cuba or in other factories in the Recôncavo, rather – more beautifully – it is wrapped in paper and left like that for 15 days. The diameter of the cigar (‘ring size’) is measured beforehand. The thickness of the paper is in accordance with the wrapper that would come on it later on. 

The binder leaves are sorted and the mid rib is removed.             

                      Removal of the mid rib – not at all easy.

The binder is ‘stretched’, the filler rolled and the end glued.              

                                                Paper wrapping

                                                Checking the ring size

Saint Antonio of Padua



Measuring the resistance

Before the next steps towards further processing take place, the resistance of every cigar is measured. This is done with the help of the so called ‘Drawmaster’, which measures the air resistance of a cigar (and specifically in Anglo-Saxon, ‘Inches of Water’, (~ x 2.489 = mbar).

At Dannemann the permissible air resistance value for a cigar is between 20 and 40 Inches of Water, but every company has its own value. At Leite & Alves (‘Talvis’), for e.g., it is between 30 and 50 Inches of water, whereby 50 is quite ‘tight’. If the cigar lies outside this self imposed value, it is separated.

"No, but we can remain good friends."
(Groucho Marx, on his wife’s demands to stop smoking cigars)


Wrapper and Mouthpiece

After two weeks the wrapping paper is removed and the wrapper is rolled around the filler. As explained earlier, the wrapper is critical for the taste - and also for the rolling of the cigars - and must be of the best quality. That is why the wrapper is rolled only by experienced charuteiras. The workspace is cleaned and lightly moistened for every new leaf. The leaf is then stretched out, smoothened, and correctly trimmed lengthwise in a sickle shape; then the ribs are smoothened out with a rolling iron.

Now the wrapper is rolled in a particular but always same angle around the cigar. The remaining leaf is cut off. From these remains, at the end, a mouthpiece is cut out and a ‘head’ is pressed on with natural glue having a neutral taste, and practiced fingers ‘round off’ the cigar perfectly. Oh, yes: the wrapper decides the origin of the cigar. A wrapper from Brazil makes the cigar a Brazil, the filler and the binder can also be from Brazil but not necessarily.


There are many types of cigars. They are differentiated according to their length, thickness and shape. A cigar, whose body is cylindrically rolled, is called ‘parejo’, on the other hand the ‘figurado’ is a cigar with a body of diverse thickness.

At the end the cigar is cut in the exact length as its envisaged type. Most types of cigars have a special name; here for example is a cutting machine employed for the length of a Corona, which has a diameter of 16.67 mm (‘Ring size 42’) and a length of 142 mm.

There are however, no common binding rules for different types of cigars, with time these have developed from different brands of companies. The most popular cigar types with their average sizes are:




Ring Size

Small Panatela




Petit Corona












Slim Panatela












Long Corona








Grand Corona








Long Panatela




Double Corona





Cigar bands and Packaging

Now only the cigar band (‘sleeve’) has to be attached, and for that a scale is used, which ensures that it is always attached at the same height. The finished cigars are now stored in an air-conditioned room for at least four weeks, so that the extra moisture that had got attached to them during processing, is released. During this time the taste develops further and the tobacco blend combines to create a unified, rounded flavour.

Before the cigars are finally packed in the wooden boxes that are specially made in-house, there is one last quality control that follows: the weight and the moisture are once again measured. A skilled colour sorter chooses the cigars according to colours and places, as far as possible, the same colour cigars together in every package. He sorts the possible variations in colour shades, which turn darker starting from left to right. Each crate has its own checking number.


„I have made it my rule, to smoke no more than one cigar simultaneously.“
(Mark Twain)


"Tobacco hands"

© Copyright: Photos and text: Jochen Weber 

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