Cigars can be made by hand, in a mechanized way or with a mixed method, that is, when the bundle is machine-made, with the filler and the capote (binding leaf), but the wrapper is rolled by hand. The cigar roller or torcedor has a vital role in manual processes. In fact, given its important task in the process of hand-rolling cigars, it usually takes many years to be promoted to master cigar roller.
After the tobacco plant cultivation, and the leaf collection, curing, fermentation, aging and selection stages, it is the turn of the cigar torcedor, who usually undertakes his work in the factory, in a well-lit area. When the tobacco is ready, the following stages when it comes to rolling a cigar are:
- Molding the filler: tobacco leaves are arranged in a cylindrical shape, in a way that allows air to run through the cigar, to allow for drawing while smoking it, and to feel the blend.
- Putting the capote over the filler and mold the cigar: this tobacco leaf holds the blend of the cigar and, after placing it, the torcedor molds the cigar with the chaveta (cigar knife).
- Pressing the cigar: cigars are placed in ten-cigar molds and pressed with a press.
- Preparing the wrapper leaf, cutting it and rolling the wrapper over the cigar.
- Making the cap of the cigar.
- Cutting the cigar with the proper measurement and checking it.
For all this work, the main quality a cigar torcedor must have is “awareness,” says the master of La Aurora Luis López, who, after 24 years as torcedor, is now the plant supervisor. “I believe that is the best there is: awareness to make the cigars, because they are going to the market; they are going to be flavored. Awareness is everything”, he says.
López, who works in La Aurora since he was 39, explains how cigars should be handled in order to be perfectly rolled. “We must open the wrapper well, stretch it well in order to roll the cigar, arrange the tobacco properly in the filler and make a nice head. We must do all this while being aware, so that the smoker is able to enjoy the cigar the way he likes it,” he highlights.
The most complex stage when rolling a cigar is placing the wrapper, since, according to master López, “it can ruin the cigar”. We must have good sense of touch in order to determine if a cigar isn’t well made. This happens when:
- The tobacco is twisted.
- The cigar is not straight.
- The tobacco is wet.
- The cigar has bumps.
- The cigar has too much or too little tobacco.
When smoking, these issues are well noticed, because if tobacco is missing, there’s too much air coming through; and if there’s too much tobacco, there’s not enough air coming through. “There must be a balance for a good, perfect smoke”, says Luis López, who learned his trade from his parents, who made cigars to sell in the local town market.
Not all cigars are the same when it comes to the level of difficulty. According to him, the lancero—a fine, long cigar—is very difficult to roll, so he believes only experienced rollers can make it. He also points out doble figurado cigars as being much more complex, and one must be very careful while rolling them. The easiest to roll are the thick, short ones, according to López.