Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 2

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Page 27 of 67

28 tobaccoasia / Issue 2, 2016 May / June) China - rolling workshop China - Great Wall Cigar factory China is a rapid developing market for cigars, driven by two key facts: the growing domestic de- mand for high-quality cigars and the development of the cigar industry in the country, lead by the China Tobacco Monopoly. The size of the cigarette market is estimated to be around 6 times the size of Russia, 8 times that of the US, and 12 times the size of Japan. Ob- viously the cigar market is not even close to the cigarette volumes, and figuring out its exact size is quite a challenge, since China currently doesn't have a proper classification, meaning that hand- made cigars, machine-made cigars, and little cigars all belong to the same statistical category. Cigars are not new to China; we have all seen photos of Chairman Mao holding a cigar, which he apparently started smoking (or so the story goes) in 1965, to help reduce a cough. According to history books, Chinese sun-cured tobacco was presented to the Emperors back in the Ming and Qing dynasties. At the moment, China relies heavily on im- ported leaf tobacco, mostly from Indonesia, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic, but experts believe China has regions with soils and climate favorable to grow cigar leaf tobacco. Shifang (Si- chuan) and Hainan island have similar latitudes to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and tobacco has been planted there for a few years now. China has four cigar factories manufactur- ing handmade and machine-made cigars: China Tobacco Sichuan Industrial Co. (CTSIC), China Tobacco Anhui, China Tobacco Hubei, and China Tobacco Shandong. In 2011, CTSIC inaugurated their new cigar factory in Shifang (Sichuan province), the Great Wall Cigar factory, which represents an invest- ment of over US$100 million. They are acquiring technology in areas such as tobacco cultivation, raw materials, blends, process, rolling, ageing, and maintenance, in order to guar- antee good and consistent quality. The quality of tobacco used in these factories has strongly improved. The knowledge they now need most is related to mastering the blending of their premium lines and, crucially, they need expe- rienced master blenders such as those you find in most cigar factories of Central and Latin America. These Chinese factories are also making huge improvements in the packaging and marketing of their production and we can expect to see some interesting products to reach the markets in the coming years, though there is still a lot to do. Not all of these products are readily available in the cigar lounges of our modern cities, but they are definitely worth tracking down should you travel to these three countries. It's never a bad idea to broaden our experiences. So why not light up a Djarum Wood Tip Natural Leaf, a Flor de Filipinas or a Great Wall Cigar No2 next time you're in their respective countries of origin? Who knows, you might even bring a box or two back homeā€¦ China - Classic 8

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