A recent poll conducted by an online cigar website, Cigar Aficionado, reports that nearly half (45.5 percent) of smokers said they had smoked a candela cigar. Candela leaf is one of the most distinctive types of cigar wrappers, easily recognized by its light green color. During the 1950s and '60s, Americans were smoking billions of candela leaf cigars, but as the novelty wore thin, so did the popularity of candela leaf.
Cigars are comprised of three parts: the filler tobacco, binder and wrapper. Candela leaf is a green tobacco that is primarily used as an outer wrapper for premium cigars. Candela wrappers are also called Claro Claro, or double Claro. The candela leaf wrapper itself holds the cigar together and provides an additional sweet flavor. Candela leaf is grown in most of the same places broad-leaf tobacco is grown, including Connecticut, Florida and Cuba.
The process of making green cigars originated in Cuba during the 1940s. Candela leaf cigars became widely popular with Americans during the 1960s and '70s, so much so that candelas were called American Market Selection cigars. Inexpensive, machine-rolled cigars in the late 1970s stifled the appeal of candela leaf, and the green cigars lost favor completely by the 1990s. Now, candela leaf cigars are appreciated by a small circle of connoisseurs.
The candela leaf has a springtime, floral aroma when lit. The Akron Cigar Club praises candela leaf as the mildest wrapper, with a sweet, grassy flavor. Daniel Nunez, president of General Cigar, distinguishes between candela and natural wrappers by stating, "a candela bears more of a fresh green leaf flavor, as compared to a natural wrapper, which bears more soil-related, earthy flavors." Although all tobacco wrappers are natural, cigar aficionados use the term "natural" to refer to dark tobacco leaves which make up the majority of wrappers on the market.
Enrico Garzaroli, Graycliff Cigar Company CEO, acknowledges that candela leaf is a rather quirky wrapper. On the company website, Garzaroli states, "The candela leaves are very fragile and cannot take much exposure to light, especially fluorescent and incandescent light." He goes on to remark that "the leaves must stay as unstretched as possible, in a dark, air conditioned place. You have to ship them refrigerated or by air. And the cigar roller must have dry hands. If not, you will see blemishes as the cigar ages." Given these specific conditions, candela growers and rollers must be highly proficient at their craft.
Candela leaves are cured in a way that locks in the chlorophyll, giving the wrapper its distinctive green color. Tobacco leaves are cured in barns for six weeks and then fermented for two to six months. The process of curing candela leaves is faster, but more meticulous. The leaves are dried at extreme heat for only three to four days before undergoing the regular fermentation process.
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