Until last week, the closest I'd been to the cigar rolling process was to see on-site demonstrations at cigar shops. Even then, I understood that it wasn't easy, and that the speed with which the rollers worked was the result of years invested in their chosen career. My appreciation for this activity multiplied, however, when I stepped onto the rolling floor at Pepin Garcia's My Father Cigars factory in Esteli, Nicaragua and saw what felt like endless rows of cigar rollers, each taking a specific piece of the process: filler and binder, wrapper and cap. They worked quickly and quietly, each completing hundreds of cigars a day.
To see the operation at work was impressive, but to feel it was totally different. Even trying something as seemingly simple as wrapping and capping a cigar, I learned just how much craftsmanship goes into what we cut, light and smoke.
The leaf for the wrapper is delicate. Every cigar smoker knows this, but when it's waiting to be wound around the binder, the tobacco feels downright flimsy. I worried, appropriately, that the slightest stupid move would tear it and force me to start over. As I sat in the seat belonging to Jaime Garcia, Pepin's son, to roll a cigar, I was a little nervous. So many people around me were making it look so easy, and I knew that the reality, for me at least, would be far different.