Despite recent efforts by the Cuban government to curtail and discourage smoking, cigars are as popular as ever among Cubans and worldwide demand is slowly increasing since a dip in the market in 2010. Some 200,000 farmers in all 15 provinces across the island rely on tobacco production for their living, and the industry is one of the highest paying for those with the right skills. A seasoned and dedicated farmhand can make the equivalent of about $80 per month, while experienced cigar rollers make about $100.
Current U.S. law allows American travelers to bring back $400 worth of art, but only $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco combined. Those wishing to do so should be ready to show U.S. customs agents a receipt for imported items. It usually takes all of 10 minutes to be offered “cigars for you, my fring (sic),” from the young street hustlers, but let the buyer beware. Great deals are rarely given to total strangers and if it sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it’s a scam of some sort. Fact is, the finest, authentic Cuban cigars can take up to six years from seed to smoke.
The fermentation process alone can last up to five years, so obviously, they’re not going to be cheap.
The following is a quote from an article in Cigar Aficionado and could be helpful to those in search of a box of genuine stogies.
“The bottom of a Cuban cigar box tells a more complete story. There you’ll see the words Habanos S.A., Hecho En Cuba, and (if the cigar is handmade, as Cuba’s best are) Totalmente a Mano. Below that will be a code for the factory in which the cigars were made, and a date stamp showing when the cigars were put in the box. Counterfeits are often missing some of these details. We’ve seen typos, bogus fonts, missing stamps, and various other discrepancies. All the markings should be on a real smoke — be cautious of any missing (or misspelled markings).”
To this day, the best, and sadly, the most expensive place to buy real cigars is in an official cigar store where one “habano” can cost up to $25.
Better enjoy it.