The Mid-Atlantic and South are classic tobacco-growing regions of America. Everyone knows that North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia have that sweet, sweet leaf. But little of it winds up in our precious cigars. Instead, it gets chopped up for cigarettes. Up there in the Connecticut River Valley (“CRV”), however, you’ll find plantations that stretch for acres and acres, devoted to producing cigar tobacco.
We’re not talking about just any cigar tobacco; this is wrapper leaf! It’s got to be beautiful, flavorful, and strong. The fields stretch north of Hartford, through Massachusetts, and even a bit beyond. Connecticut tobacco is not just a reference to the state it’s grown in. Instead, it’s the CRV we’re talking about.
Now, there are two main kinds of Connecticut tobacco, and it’s the difference between shade and broadleaf that we’re dealing with today. Read on to know the difference.
What’s the Difference between Connecticut Shade-Grown and Connecticut Broadleaf Tobacco?
It starts with the seed. Each type uses a different variety of seeds to plant in the ground and get the party started. Broadleaf is given plenty of space, while Connecticut shade is grown closer together to provide even more coverage from the sun. As the plants grow, the main difference is that shade-grown is provided with a cheesecloth or other covering to block out the sun partially. This lets it grow tall, around 10 to 12 feet, while broadleaf stays much lower to the ground at 3 or 4 feet tall.
The goal with broadleaf is to produce a huge, thick, oily leaf. To encourage the plant to make this kind of leaf, the plant is “topped.” Its flowers are removed, freeing up resources to increase leaf production. Anyone who has a veggie garden will be familiar with this practice, as it is one of the primary ways we cause plants to create more of what we want and less of what we don’t need.
Then Comes Harvest Season
Visually speaking, the difference between broadleaf and shade Connecticut tobacco couldn’t be clearer. On the broadleaf plant, the leaves are huge and imposing. On the shade plant, leaves are thinner and far more fragile. Shade leaves are harvested in primings. Workers take a few leaves from the bottom of the plant, then wait a week. Then they take a few more and pause harvesting again. This goes on until all leaves are harvested.
Harvesting broadleaf in primings just doesn’t work. The leaves need to keep pulling nutrients from the stalk as they cure. For that reason, the whole plant is “stalk-cut,” and brought to the curing barn intact. Connecticut shade is gently cured, resulting in a mild, light brown leaf. Connecticut broadleaf, on the other hand, takes far more time to prepare. It generally is used to create darker brown Maduro leaves, which need to ferment for weeks and weeks. Broadleaf is piled up in pilones which get hot and moist, allowing the leaf to develop and release the harsh natural compounds found in tobacco.
At the end of the fermentation phase, broadleaf has turned dark brown and lightly sweet, with an earthy flavor profile. This provides a lot of contrast to Connecticut shade, which is known for the flavors of coffee, cedar, and cream. This is also the type produced in Ecuador, where the natural cloud cover is quite helpful in growing tobacco if you don’t want excessive sun.
Tons of highly-ranked blends use both types of Connecticut leaf, so you can smoke them and learn the difference between shade grown and broadleaf for yourself.
If you just ask for a Connecticut, you’ll probably be taken to a selection of shade-grown wrapper cigars. But now you know the difference between the sophisticated and refined Connecticut shade leaf and its swarthy and potent sibling, the Connecticut broadleaf. Cigars Direct is the best online store to buy your favorite cigars. Check out our website for variety and convenience.