The New York Times follows the trail of famous Cuban "puros"

Posted: 10-Dec-15 11:14

On a special piece published under the newspaper's online Travel section, a writer for the New York Times follows the trail of the legendary Cuban cigars. Cigar lover and former NY Times staff writer, Ron Stodghill refers to the island as "tobacco's Holy Grail" and in his article the author explores Cuba's cigar culture whilst recommending places to go and stay in Havana.

The New York Times follows the trail of famous Cuban "puros"

The popular American newspaper, The New York Times recently published a story about the authenticity and quality of Cuban cigars, written by one of the publication’s former staff writer who gives readers pointers on some of the key factors in the island’s smoking culture.

The article is an invitation to explore the trail of the famed Cuban puros; from the tobacco plantations in the countryside to the eye-popping deals sealed in the black market.

Written from the perspective of a professional writer who recently travelled to Cuba in order to explore the island’s tobacco-growing and manufacturing industry in depth, the author of the article explains that an estimated 5 to 8 million of Cuban cigars reach Americans each year, even when the embargo imposed by the United States since the 1960s bans the arrival of Cuban commodities to the northern neighbour’s territory.

Writer Ron Stodghill is one of the thousands of American citizens and residents who loves puros. As an accredited journalist he travelled recently to Havana and Pinar del Río to find out where the uniqueness of the island´s cigars (widely recognised as the best in the world) resides.

Explaining the rather unique appeal of Cuban Habanos for Americans, the author says:

"For the average American cigar lover, Cuban smokes have remained mostly the rare indulgence; a celebratory spoil procured through mysterious back channels and offered when babies and business are born."

In his opinion, the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba last July marks a “cigar renaissance”.

In his article which reads more like a personal travel story titled “On the Cigar Trail in Cuba”, the writer narrates his experiences buying refined Montecristos illegally, guided by a young Cuban man into the deepest boroughs of Havana, where they managed to get a box of the coveted cigars for $180 US dollars less than the box’s standard price in the American black market.

By visiting the most renowned tobacco plantation in the world, the Alejandro Robaina farm in Pinar del Río, the author introduces part of the history of Cuban tobacco fields and sheds light on the process of cultivating the plants, the collection and drying of the leaves, and the cigars’ hand-rolling process.

The journalistic piece makes reference to Fidel Castro as a Cohiba man and remarks the fact that other prominent politicians like John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill also shared a common passion for puros.

Nowadays, prompted by the new political environment and the mutual rapprochement between the US and Cuban government, American celebrities and businessmen tend to be the ones who smoke the finest and more expensive cigars in the island.

In his article, Stodghill also comments on “cigar nostalgia” by interviewing British teacher Michael Phillips, member of the Cigar Aficionado Club, an organisation that arranges monthly meetings in Havana.

From the writer´s point of view, Habano houses (shops) in Cuba and even the Conde de Villanueva hotel -dedicated entirely to the cigar culture- are not as authentic and enjoyable for smokers as private restaurants and “casas particulares” are.

Instead of luxurious and pretentious places he recommends visitors try to get in direct contact with Cubans and their culture and he makes favourable comments on small flourishing restaurants and cafés in Havana, such as Sia Kará, Nazdarovie, Cafe Laurent and Mamainé. As the reporter indicates, “the perfection of the moment” with a great cigar (“balanced, full, flavoured and serene”) can be more appreciated there.


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