Sun Grown or Shade Grown with Rick Rodriguez (Video)

While not as frequently noted as the country of origin where the tobacco comes from for a premium cigar, the way that the tobacco was grown can have just as much of an impact on it’s flavor as anything else in the process. Here, Rick Rodriguez of CAO Cigars gives us a little insight into the differences between Sun and Shade Grown tobacco.


Hey, guys. I’m Rick Rodriguez, the head blender from CAO. I’m here to talk about shade grown versus sun grown tobacco. And so I remember a story that my master shared with me, “Ricky, every tobacco we grow is sun grown tobacco. We’re not growing mushrooms.” But what we do is tend to protect certain tobaccos from sunshine and the way we do that is Connecticut, or shade grown tobacco.

Shade grown tobacco means we’re going to allow some sunshine to affect the tobacco, but we’re going to protect that tobacco by covering it in some cheesecloth and protecting direct sunlight to that tobacco. Broadleaf means it’s grown outside, direct sunlight.

We harvest that tobacco different. If you’re talking about shade grown tobacco, that is going to be harvest priming. Remember, we prime each row of tobacco separate. But when we’re dealing with Broadleaf, we’re going to stalk cut that tobacco, meaning that we’re going to take that fully grown tobacco plant and cut that stalk and hang that tobacco plant, fully intact, upside down. And that’s going to release some sugars, and there’s going to settle what’s in the base, we’re going to hang it upside down, that sugar is going to flow through that tobacco and reach the tip of the tobacco plant.

So if you’re looking at shade grown, our product, our tobacco is going to be beautiful. The veining is very, very thin. But sun grown, because it has to fight the power of the sun, the veining is very thick. So if you see Maduros or a dark wrapper sometimes, it’s very toothy, very veiny, because that tobacco needs to protect itself from the sunshine. But shade grown is always going to be a tight, beautiful wrapper, very thin veins and all that. So the taste is going to be, to me, a little bit more mellow to medium-body. And we can produce more of the medium to full-body cigars from Broadleaf.

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