Tobacco Leaf Harvesting:
After being planted, tobacco is harvested 70 to 130 days later in one of two ways: either the whole plant is cut and the stalk is split or speared and hung on a tobacco leaves stick or lath, or the leaves are picked off as they grow. The needle is used to string the leaves of cigarette-wrapper and aromatic tobaccos, and a string is tied to a lath or stick that is hung in a curing barn and used to loop the leaves that will be flue-cured. For the leaf not to break or get hurt when it has to be handled for healing, it should wilt without getting sunburned. Tobacco leaves can be left in the field to wilt for anywhere from a few hours to two days.
Tobacco Curing Process:
The most common ways to cure something are with air, fire, and a vent. A fourth way, sun curing, is used with aromatic types and, to a lesser extent, with air-cured types. There are four important steps to curing: drooping, yellowing, turning color, and drying. These involve changes in the leaf’s structure and chemistry, which are controlled to bring out the right qualities.
Most air curing happens inside buildings with the help of artificial ventilation. When necessary, coke, charcoal or petroleum gas can be burned to make heat. Air curing takes between one and two months and is used for many types of tobacco, such as dark air-cured types, cigar, cigarettes, Maryland, and Burley.
The fire-curing process is similar to air-curing, except that after the tobacco leaves has been hanging for two to six days, open wood fires are lit on the floor of the curing barn. The tar smell of the smoke gets transferred to the tobacco. The firing process can be ongoing or stop-and-go, taking anywhere from three to ten weeks until the leaf has reached the desired finish and curing is done.
Most barns used to cure flues are small and close together. They have vents and metal pipes, or flues, that run from stoves around or under the floor. Wood, coal, oil, and liquid petroleum gas are all used as fuel. When oil or gas heaters are used, there is no need for a chimney.
The heat is carefully applied, and the leaves are carefully watched to see if their chemical and physical makeup changes. Flue curing takes four to eight days and is used for Virginia or bright tobacco. During bulk curing, the leaves are spread out on racks that are set up in a curing room.
Grading Tobacco Leaves:
After the leaf has been dried, it may be piled up for a while to let it get ready for sale. Most of the time, getting the leaf ready means sorting it and putting it in a bale or package that is easy for the buyer to check and take away. Before the leaf can be handled without breaking, it needs to be conditioned in damp basements or rooms with a lot of moisture.
The fineness of grade is based on the type of leaf and local customs. At its most complicated, grading can be done based on where the tobacco leaf is on the plant, its color, size, age, soundness, and other qualities that can be seen. In the United States, flue-cured tobacco is graded this way, and each grade is bulked or baled separately.
In developing countries, where the buyer cares more about the amount of each grade than the quality of the whole lot, grading is usually much easier. Aromatic tobaccos are a good example of this. Except for flavored tobaccos, most tobaccos that are sold around the world are put together into hands of 15 to 30 leaves and tied with a single leaf wrapped around the butts.
Most tobacco leaves, except aromatic and cigarette tobacco, are regarded if necessary and generally re-dried after purchase. The exact amount of moisture needed for ageing is then added, and the tobacco is safely packed in cases or hogsheads. This is how tobacco that is sent abroad is sent.
Most of the time, threshing tools, but sometimes people, are used to remove most of the stem from the leaf before it is redried. This is called “stemming” the leaf. Forced fermentation is sometimes used to speed up the ageing process, especially for cigarette tobacco. Aromatic tobaccos are manipulated after they are bought. They are graded in the plant, baled, and put through a complicated fermentation process in the bale before they are sent to the final manufacturer.
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