Tobacco


Tobacco -

The origin of the word "tobacco" has been traced back through quite an interesting history. It starts with the name of a pipe which the early Spaniards found in Santo Domingo, and which was known as the "tobago." Later, this was corrupted to "tabaco." The Italians, Portuguese and English added an extra "c," and the English changed the "a" in the first syllable to "o" - but all clung to the same word. Germany, Denmark, Holland, Scandinavia and Russia make it tobak, France tabac, Poland tabaka, and the Malays tambracco. The similarity renders it easy to get something to smoke anywhere in the world without waiting to learn the language!

The introduction of tobacco into Europe by early settlers in the Southern portion of what is now the United States, is so distinctly a matter of universal knowledge that it is unnecessary to dwell on it here. First used by the American Indians and carried to Europe as a curiosity by the early discoverers of our continent, it is now cultivated in every part of the globe where the climate is sufficiently mild.

The United States is by far the largest tobacco producing country and also the largest exporter of leaf tobacco. The States which rank first in quantity raised are, Kentucky - a long way in the lead; North Carolina and Virginia. Next come, in the order named, Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Missouri, West Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

Other important producing countries are, in Europe - Germany, Holland, Salonica, Hungary and Russia; in Asia - China, Japan, India, Dutch East Indies, Philippines, Latakia and other parts of Asiatic Turkey, Persia and Syria; in Africa - Algiers; and various sections of South America.

The United States and Belgium are the largest per capita consumers, each averaging about 5 1/2 pounds annually. Germany comes next with 3 1/2 pounds. France and England average 2 pounds.

By the most widely approved method of cultivation, the young plants are obtained by sowing the seed in specially prepared beds of rich soil. In Virginia, which may be taken as an example, the sowing is usually performed during the first week in January. The plants are ready for setting out about the beginning of June.

The fields require much careful attention - thorough weeding is essential and so is a watchful eye to prevent the ravages of numerous insect enemies. Much of the latter work is done in some sections by flocks of turkeys, maintained for that express purpose. The flower shoots also must be nipped off as soon as they commence to develop, as otherwise they would weaken the leaves. This process is, however, neglected in some countries, especially in Turkey and Greece, where small leaves are preferred, and where, in some cases, as in the celebrated Latakia tobacco, both buds and flowers are used together with the leaves.

The "ripeness" of the plant is indicated by a peculiar spotted appearance of the leaves. The time generally chosen for cutting is mid-day, or when the sun is powerful and the morning and evening dews absent. Cutting is done by hand, and only the plants marked are taken.

Some growers cut the plant in three sections - the three top leaves, making usually the finest wrappers, in one piece, and the remainder of the stalk in two. Others take the leaves only, or the top leaves and the lower stalk separate. The leaves at this stage are green, fresh and odorless.

The next process is the "curing" or "drying" - sometimes in the sun, at others by "air drying" under cover - the latter process being the longer and requiring often from two to four months - generally first one and then the other.

The leaves are next removed from the stalks and "sweated" in piles for a couple of days. Then comes the assorting - the bad leaves are rejected and the others are graded by size and appearance, tied up in bundles called "hands," and, if for CIGARS, packed under great pressure in cases or bales and generally stored in dark, well ventilated warehouses for a year or more, to "ripen" by fermentation and further curing. If for smoking or chewing tobacco, the "hands" are pressed into hogsheads.

Manufactured tobacco may be classed under three heads-Smoking, Chewing and SNUFF. Smoking is again divided into CIGARS, Cigarettes and Loose Smoking tobacco, and Chewing into Fine Cut, Plug and Twist (for both smoking and chewing) - the tobacco for the last-named being twisted into "rolls" of numerous sizes and variously flavored.

Cigar tobacco is sub-divided into "Wrappers," the largest and finest leaves; "Binders," the next in point of desirability, and "Fillers," a mixture of small leaves and lower grade large leaves.

About 65% of the Fillers used in the United States is of domestic tobacco. Cuba supplies about 25%. The balance comes chiefly from Turkey and Germany.

The very large proportion of 32% of all wrappers used in this country and more than 95% of all imported wrappers, consists of those from Sumatra, via Holland. The reason is found in the extreme care exercised in preparation - the fine uniform appearance of the leaves and their careful assortment by length and shade. Connecticut and Florida lead in the production of domestic wrappers.

Loose Smoking tobacco, after curing and other preparation, is cut up in special machines and then "roasted" to attain the desired degree of mildness. It varies greatly in quality.

Chewing tobacco was formerly sold principally in Fine-cut form, but of late years that style has been almost supplanted by Plug tobacco as the result of the many improvements in its manufacture. The "plugs" of a few years ago and those of to-day are totally different in character - the leading makers now employ the choicest material and have produced a great variety of pleasing combinations.

In the manufacture of Plug, the chief processes are: (1) stemming, (2) sweetening, (3) drying, (4) flavoring, (5) "lumping" and (6) stamping.

The equipment of the sweetening department consists of a number of large copper kettles containing hot syrups, both plain and flavored with cloves, allspice, tonka beans, or other spices, licorice solutions, etc. The tobacco is dipped into these kettles and then squeezed through rollers to remove excess moisture. The drying which follows is performed by hanging in rooms heated by steam PIPES.

Retailing and Use of tobacco.

To the grocer, tobacco presents itself in two phases, (1) as an article on which a satisfactory profit can be made, and (2) as drawing and pleasing a profitable class of customers. It is, though, a common mistake for the grocer to endeavor to obtain an excessive profit on CIGARS and tobacco. He should be content with about 20% to 25%, and by careful purchasing give his customers full value.

The whole matter of the use of tobacco is very fairly summed up in the following remarks by a noted physician. "Before the full maturity of the system is attained, even the smallest amount of smoking is hurtful. Subsequently, the habit is, in most instances, only prejudicial when it is carried to excess. We cannot honestly say more against tobacco than can be urged against any other luxury. It is innocuous as compared with alcohol; it does infinitely less harm than opium; and it is in no sense worse than tea."

See also special articles on CIGARS, PIPES and SNUFF.


Arround Tobacco in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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