More than 100 countries all around the world grow tobacco. China crop is the biggest, followed by Brazil, India, USA and Zimbabwe.
The Virginia tobacco is named after the US state where it was first cultivated. It is also called ‘bright tobacco’ because of its yellow to orange colour. Burley is a slightly lighter shade of green than Virginia. After being air-cured, the tobacco turns brown with virtually no sugars left in the leaf, giving it an almost cigar-like taste and charm. Normally the Burley tobacco needs heavier soils and more fertilizer than Virginia tobacco. The best Burley is grown in the USA, Central America, Malawi and Uganda. Combined with Virginia and Oriental tobacco, it makes up an American Blend. Oriental is the smallest and hardiest type, grown in the hot summer of the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East.
There are many stages that one tobacco must go through so it can be sold as final product. The most important is the curing.
Curing is a carefully controlled process used to achieve the texture, colour and overall quality of a specific tobacco type. During the cure, leaf starch is converted into sugar, and the tobacco changes colour from green to lemon, to yellow, to orange to brown, like tree leaves in autumn.
There are four main curing methods:
Air-curing: Air-cured tobacco, such as Burley, is hung in unheated, ventilated barns to dry naturally until the leaf reaches a light to medium brown colour. At this point, there are virtually no sugars left in the leaf.
Flue-curing: Heat is introduced into a barn via pipes from an exterior furnace, like radiators connected to the central heating system. This controlled heat allows the leaves to turn yellow/orange, at which point they are fixed, containing a high amount of sugar. Virginia tobacco is flue-cured.
Sun-curing: Leaves are strung out on racks and exposed to the sun for 12 to 30 days. The sun’s direct heat fixes the leaves at a yellow to orange colour with a high sugar content. Oriental is the most prominent of the sun-cured tobaccos.