Like so many aspects of cigar production, harvesting is a labor-intensive process done primarily by hand. Depending on the type of tobacco grown, 2-full time workers may be required for harvesting purposes –– per acre. Because of the diverse nature of tobacco (and cigars), though, the act of harvesting can occur at different times and in different ways.

Ultimately, how a tobacco plant is harvested is determined by various factors that all influence the quality and performance of the final product –– the cigar. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we need to take a look at something else entirely: the sun.

Sun vs Shade-Grown Tobacco

Cigar tobacco can generally be divided into two categories: shade-grown and sun-grown. Sun-grown tobacco leaves are typically oily and rich. In many cases, they make quality wrappers for darker cigars like Maduros. As a rule, the longer tobacco leaves are left to grow in the sun, the more ripe and sugary they become. Several examples of sun-grown cigar wrappers include Punch Clasico and Hoyo La Amistad Black.

Shade-grown tobaccos, on the other hand, are often purposefully shielded from the sun’s rays by a thin cloth or plastic covering. Sometimes, though, natural conditions create shade-grown tobacco “organically.” Ecuador, for instance, receives so much natural cloud cover that blenders don’t need to use artificial coverings to produce shade-grown tobacco there. Shade grown tobacco leaves are usually larger and lighter than sun-grown leaves. Examples of shade-grown cigar wrappers include Partagas Cortado and Cohiba Connecticut.

Harvesting the Tobacco Plant

As a tobacco plant grows, it produces leaves. However, not all tobacco leaves share the same qualities, and they’re not harvested in the same way either. Blenders break tobacco plants and their leaves into three “zones,” the highest of which is called the “ligero.” A small percentage of tobacco plants produce a class of leaf even higher than the ligero. These leaves are referred to as “medio tiempo” because they take “half the time” to ripen. La Gloria Cubana Medio Tiempo takes this phenomenon as its inspiration 
and contains tobacco from this special type of leaf.

Tobacco plants may be harvested several leaves at a time in a process called “priming.” It takes around six weeks to harvest a tobacco plant via priming, and it’s generally reserved for shade grown plants.

Sun grown plants, conversely, are more often stalk-cut. That is, they’re cut at the stalk and speared for curing after harvest.

Fast Facts You Can Use

  • ”Maduro” comes from the Spanish word for “mature” –– more commonly translated in this sense as meaning “ripe.”
  • The Connecticut River Valley is renowned for producing two very popular types of tobacco leaf: Connecticut Shade and Connecticut Broadleaf. However, these types of tobacco are very different! Connecticut Shade wrapped cigars are usually light, creamy, and smooth. Cigars that prominently feature Connecticut Broadleaf, though, are normally dark, rich, oily, and sweet.


Ready to test your knowledge and earn a badge? Then take our quiz on this lesson here. And don’t forget to check out the other Seed to Cigar features on Cigar World to complete your cigar education!

Ready to earn the Harvesting Badge?

Question 1: Which tobacco-producing country is famous for excessive cloud cover?

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

Ecuador gets so much cloud cover, blenders can create shade-grown tobacco without artificial coverings there.

Question 2: True or False: Ligero leaves are the lowest on the tobacco plant.

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

Ligero leaves are the highest leaves on the tobacco plant.

Question 3: What does “Maduro” mean?

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

“Maduro” means “mature,” or in this instance, “ripe.”

Question 4: True or False: Tobacco leaves can only be grown in the shade.

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

Tobacco leaves can be grown in the sun or the shade.


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Previous Article: 1: Planting Tobacco

The story of every cigar begins with a tobacco seed and a patch of soil. Though many other factors affect the character and quality of a cigar, these two fundamental elements –– the seeds and the soil –– form the basis of any cigar smoking experience.

As such, choosing when and where to plant a tobacco seed can have a huge impact on the way the plant grows, the way the leaves develop, and ultimately, how you experience the cigar as a finished product. That’s why tobaccos from certain regions tend to have distinctive characteristics. Just like German beer and Japanese Kobe beef have a unique quality, so too can tobaccos grown in places like The Dominican Republic, Indonesia, or Brazil. Before we review the differences between growing regions, though, let’s first focus on the seed itself.

Next Article: 3: Curing & Fermentation

The character of a cigar is determined by two types of factors: natural influences and man-made ones. Natural factors that affect tobacco development include elements like the weather, the composition of the soil, and the very nature of the tobacco plant itself. There’s not much a blender can do about the climate in Ecuador or the soil in Nicaragua.

However, other influences –– like curing and fermentation –– are under direct control of master cigar blenders. This allows for a great range of creativity and exploration. Indeed, the curing and fermentation process is (arguably) the stage in cigar production when the flavors and qualities that come to define an individual cigar start to take shape.

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  • Member Avatar
    (35 days ago)

    two articles in and already learning a good amount

  • Member Avatar
    (37 days ago)

    Really liking these facts. Can read all day long. Small quizzes never hurt anyone.

  • Member Avatar
    (41 days ago)

    Love a nice shade grown wrapper in the mornings and sun grown at night!

  • Member Avatar
    (41 days ago)

    La Gloria Cubana Medio Tiempo is one of my favorite

  • Member Avatar
    (42 days ago)

    CT Broadleaf has been hitting my palate lately!

  • Member Avatar
    (42 days ago)

    Love a good Equador cigar! Camacho is a fav