x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cuban expert gives smokers whiff of art of cigar rolling

'I have been impressed by the passion of the local people towards the cigar. They love it."

Ivette Carnet Garcia demonstrates her skill in rolling leaves into cigars.
Ivette Carnet Garcia demonstrates her skill in rolling leaves into cigars.

ABU DHABI // Ivette Carnet Garcia expertly rolls the brown leaves around the fragrant tobacco filler. It is an art that takes decades to perfect. A professional Cuban cigar roller, Ms Garcia ended a 20-day UAE tour yesterday with a demonstration at the Crowne Plaza on Yas Island. She has been working as a roller for the Habanos factory in Cuba, rolling Romeo and Juliet brand cigars, for more than 20 years. Habanos supplies 99 per cent of the UAE market, where, Ms Garcia said, her demonstrations had been enthusiastically received.

"I have been impressed by the passion of the local people towards the cigar," she said. "They love it." She begins the rolling process by spreading out the capote leaf, a flexible and more resistant leaf from the middle of the tobacco plant. For the filling, the ligero leaf, which gives the cigar a strong flavour, is mixed with seco, a lighter leaf that creates the aroma, and volado, which gives the cigar its combustibility.

Each cigar leaf goes through two fermentation processes to get rid of impurities. In Cuba, cigar rollers must go through a nine-month apprenticeship before working. It can take 20 years to qualify as a "master roller". Jasim Ahmed, the territory manager of Baqer Moheb Est, which distributes Cuban cigars in the UAE, Oman and Iran, and which organised Ms Garcia's tour, said: "Wherever she goes, she demonstrates cigar rolling in an effort to spread the Cuban tradition in this part of the world."

Ms Garcia defends her art by saying she only demonstrates it in places where "people come to smoke in the first place". "I'm not promoting smoking," she said. Mr Ahmed said the tour had been well received because "people have had the chance to experience freshly hand-made cigars, especially those who can't go to Cuba". @Email:hhassan@thenational.ae