Rum, cigars the forbidden fruits of Havana
|Partagas, one of the oldest cigars in Cuba, were begun in 1843 by an immigrant from Spain. The Trinidad is made exclusively for Fidel to present to dignitaries and diplomats.|
Cigars and rum are the forbidden fruit of Cuba, at least when it comes to bringing them home. But both can be enjoyed during a visit to this island nation and some visitors sample both every day. In Havana you can also tour a museum that showcases the making of rum and visit one of several cigars factories where workers sort the tobacco leaves and roll the cigars.
The cigar process is fascinating but unfortunately no photography is permitted and note taking is likewise not allowed.
Our small group arrived early to see the cigar process which turned out to be good, because by late morning lectors step up to their stand at the head of the rolling room to read to the workers. The custom was begun long ago to relieve workers of the tedium of rolling one cigar after another and to educate them in the process. The day begins with the news, read in Spanish of course, and changes each hour. By mid afternoon the lectors are reading from romance novels, finishing a chapter or two at a time.
The workers are paid $12 a month plus four cigars a day our guide told us. The cigars given to employees all have been rejected in the quality control process. The H. Upmann factory, which we visited in Havana, has 400 employees and turns out 18,000 cigars a day, most of which are exported. Cigars are tested by official smokers and carefully aged before being sold.
A shop next to the cigar factory sells all kinds of cigars, including many not produced there. A walk-in humidor controls temperatures and humidity to keep them at their best.
|Young rums like this 3 year old one are best used in drinks such as mojitos. Older rums are sipped straight like a cognac.|
The Museo de Ron is in an old mansion near the Plaza de San Francisco where sugar cane presses, sugar boiling pots and barrel making are showcased. Bubbling vats and copper stills are part of a mini-distillery to show the process of making rum. A highlight, especially for model train buffs, is an elevated platform from which an early 20th century sugar plantation is showcased, complete with working scale model steam locomotives. Some of those old steam locomotives now are displayed near the waterfront arts and crafts market.
Our rum museum tour ended in the adjacent Bar Havana Club where we drank mojitos and listened to a great band.
|A walk-in humidor at the cigar store next to the factory keeps fine cigars at the perfect humidity to preserve them|