Recently I’ve been learning the difference between shade grown and sun grown cigars.
As you might imagine, each type of growing method imparts very different flavour profiles in the tobacco, resulting in distinct differences between sun grown and shade grown tobacco.
To understand why, we first need a quick biology lesson in plants.
Plants derive their energy for growth from the sun’s rays. They convert the sun’s energy into food via the chlorophyll in their leaves. Chlorophyll is the pigment inside a leaf responsible for its green colour.
The more chlorophyll a leaf has, the greener the leaf becomes, and the more sunlight it can absorb.
So, what does this mean for cigars?
Sun grown cigars are lighter in colour, but their flavour is bolder, fuller & sweeter. Shade grown cigars are darker, with a more mellow & creamy taste.
Sun Grown Cigars
Sun grown cigars are grown out in the fields in direct contact with the sun. To protect themselves from the sun’s heat, they develop thicker veins and produce more oil. This results in a sweeter, more fuller flavoured smoke.
However, being out in the sun also means they don’t need to work so hard to produce food, and as so, they develop less chlorophyll. This results in a lighter coloured leaf.
Shade Grown Cigars
Shade grown cigars are also grown out in the fields, however they are covered with a nylon cheesecloth canopy. The canopy restricts the amount of sunlight which can penetrate through to the tobacco leaves.
This makes it harder for them to produce energy from the sun’s light. As so, they produce more chlorophyll to maximise the amount of sunlight they can capture. This results in a much darker leaf.
Also, as the leaves are more protected from the sun’s light, the leaf is thinner and less oily. Shade grown tobacco typically produces a far more mellow and creamy smoke.
In some countries, like Ecuador & Indonesia, the high-levels of cloud cover give cigars the characteristics associated with shade grown tobacco.
Fun fact: Technically all cigars are sun grown cigars, as the leaves are grown outside in the sun.