Cigars are most commonly associated with South and Central America – with countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic springing to mind when we consider where tobacco is grown.
However, one of the main varieties of tobacco that is used in cigars actually comes from North America. The Connecticut Shade is a popular tobacco grown in the Connecticut River Valley. It is commonly used as the wrapper leaf for cigars.
We take a closer look at this type of tobacco and how it is used in the cigars we love!
While tobacco normally thrives best growing near the equator, the Connecticut River Valley is a fertile area that has provided excellent tobacco-growing soil for hundreds of years.
Tobacco is grown along the Connecticut River from East Haddam up through Massachusetts and New Hampshire and into Vermont. The soil here is silty due to the conditions left by the glaciers that once covered this area.
The Connecticut tobacco is usually shade-grown, using a cheesecloth or nylon netting to help protect the leaves from the sun’s rays and damaging winds. Shade grown tobacco has many benefits, with the leaves produced being thinner, larger, more flexible and more uniform in size. This makes shade grown tobacco leaves particularly good as wrapper leaves for cigars – which is what the Connecticut Shade is often used as.
Shade grown tobacco plants also tend to grow far bigger than those grown exposed to the elements. This means that you can produce a lot more tobacco with this growing method.
As well as providing larger leaves, the uniformity of the leaf size helps to give the cigar a much smoother smoke, making the experience more pleasant. You will typically find that shade grown tobacco leaves are far less oily and coarse than those grown in the sun.
Types of Tobacco Grown in Connecticut
Tobacco was first grown in Connecticut in 1640 in the town of Windsor. At first, the tobacco grown there was much rougher looking than it is today and was primarily used for the binder and wrapper of cigars.
Today, these rugged leaves are known as Connecticut Broadleaf, and they are still grown in the area. The Connecticut Broadleaf is grown in direct sunlight, which makes the leaves tougher and more rough-looking.
Connecticut Broadleaf was the only type of tobacco grown in Connecticut until 1900 when the Connecticut Shade was first grown!
Since then, the Connecticut Shade has become the more popular tobacco crop, due to the improved quality of these leaves.
Why Shade Grown?
Around 1900, tobacco farmers in Connecticut were losing out on business due to the growing competition from Sumatran tobacco. At the time, the tobacco grown in Sumatra was better than the Connecticut Broadleaf, and cigar manufacturers began to use their tobacco instead.
Fearing for their livelihood, farmers in the Connecticut River Valley began planting seeds of the Sumatran tobacco. However, their initial attempts to grow the plant were unsuccessful, as the leaves became scorched by the sun.
To overcome this issue, the farmers constructed tents made from cheesecloth over the growing tobacco to help prevent damage from direct sunlight.
The shade growing method was so successful that many of the other tobacco seed varietals grown in Connecticut also started to be planted under shade.
The result of growing tobacco under shade is thin leaves, with barely-noticeable veins and a more refined shape. Following the ageing curing process, the resulting leaf is a perfect golden-brown colour that is very appealing to smoke.
A Spreading Trend
Following the success of shade growing tobacco in Connecticut, many other tobacco growing regions decided to follow suit.
Now, countries including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Nicaragua all produce some tobaccos under shade.
Connecticut-seed tobaccos are also grown in a number of other tobacco-producing regions.
However, for a tobacco to be considered ‘Connecticut Shade’, it has to be planted and grown in the Connecticut River Valley.
A Decline in Growth
Currently, around 2,000 acres of the Connecticut River Valley is used to grow tobacco. This is a sharp decline from almost a century ago when 30,000 acres were used for the crop in the 1930s. However, with cigar smoking being much less popular now than then, it is only natural to see less land being used.
Connecticut Shade Remains Popular With Manufacturers and Smokers
Despite a drop in the number of people smoking cigars, the quality of the cigars being smoked today has certainly seen an increase. Connecticut Shade is very much still in demand – both from cigar manufacturers and cigar smokers.
Connecticut wrappers offer a refined flavour and hint of sweetness that cannot be matched by other tobaccos. This is one of many reasons that they are used as the wrapper for premium cigars. Connecticut Shade leaves are used by a large number of top cigar brands, including Montecristo, Arturo Fuente and Ashton Cigars.
Connecticut wrappers are used in premium cigars, as production costs are higher than most other types of tobacco. Due to being grown in the United States, labour costs are higher than most tobacco farms in Central and South America, while the growing season is much shorter than these locations.
Have you tried a cigar that uses Connecticut tobacco before? If you want to try a cigar made using a Connecticut Shade wrapper, then why not try out some of these options below:
- Ashton Classic Corona Cigar
- Hiram & Solomon Entered Apprentice Toro Cigar
- PSyKo Seven Connecticut Robusto Cigar