After the plant is harvested for its leaves and before it is ready for use, whole leaf tobacco must first be cured. Curing tobacco is a process that changes the color of the leaves and reduces the chlorophyll content. This allows for a less harsh and more pleasant flavor and scent. Curing is a three-step process that includes drying, fermenting, and aging. All tobacco from Total Leaf Supply is shipped cured and ready to enjoy, but this is an interesting process that can be fun to try at home.
The first step, drying, requires hanging the leaves from a rack by the stems. You can gather your harvested leaves in one to four leaf bunches and zip tie them at the stems. Make sure there is plenty of air flow between the leaves. If the leaves stick together, they will become moldy. The drying process takes about three to four weeks to complete.
After drying, the next step is fermentation. Tobacco producers ferment tobacco naturally by creating large piles of air cured leaves. It is essentially a compost heap where the internal temperature and humidity is monitored. To do this at home requires building a chamber that will simulate the internal temperatures of a tobacco pile. The temperature should be approximately 120 degrees with a humidity level of 75%. Fermentation takes between four and six weeks to complete.
With a light bulb heat source directed toward the pile of air cured tobacco under it, place paper towels misted with water on top of the cured leaves. Place plastic wrap over it to hold in moisture. Using distilled water, mist the leaves twice a day to create the humid conditions required.
The last step in the curing process is aging the tobacco. Keep your tobacco leaves stored in a humidor with the humidity set between 50% to 65%. Aging is a slow continuation of fermentation. Like wine, tobacco matures with time. During aging, tannins are released while sugar levels increase to deliver a mellow, distinctly aromatic taste. Properly stored, tobacco can be aged for years.