Why is There a Stem in My Cigar? – Cigar Aficionado

Why is There a Stem in My Cigar?
Photo/Cigar Aficionado

A worker in a Cuban factory removes the stem from a tobacco leaf in a process called destemming.

Fine, handmade cigars are made with two ingredients—tobacco and time—and that tobacco begins as whole leaves. At the center of each tobacco leaf is a thick, linear structure known as a midrib, i.e. a stem, a natural part of long-filler tobacco.

The vascular system of a tobacco plant is responsible for delivering nutrients to the cells of the leaf. These nutrients travel through the central midrib to the smaller veins located on the leaf. While veins may not be pretty to look at, they can be full of flavor. The stems, too. A dried stem or two within the filler is no cause for alarm and actually can contribute to a cigar’s strength, structure and combustion rate. 

While the stem is removed from the tobacco leaf that becomes a wrapper (removing the stem leaves a cigarmaker with two wrappers) the leaves that become filler keep part of their stems.

Roughly one-third of the stem is removed from filler tobacco, resulting in a leaf that looks like a pair of frog’s legs. A tobacco stem is thickest toward the plant’s stalk, and this portion is the part that’s removed. The rest of that leaf, including that bit of stem, is rolled into the heart of the cigar, the filler, which is wrapped in a binder leaf creating a bunch.

The thicker the tobacco, the thicker the stem that remains in the filler leaf, so there are some pieces of stem in your fine cigars. It’s not a flaw—it’s just a part of the production process.