Back in the day, Florida was the second most important tobacco growing region in the United States, after Connecticut. A number of events changed that, and the last crop was harvested in 1977. That is, until Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Company, decided to take up a long lost tradition.
The increasing popularity of cigarettes and the Cuban embargo were two important factors in the decline of cigar consumption during the 1900s, a lot of the Cuban farmers went to Central American farmers who just couldn’t compete. The costs were very different.
Still, comparing Nicaragua and Honduras to the US, the differences in production costs are enormous. Yet Borysiewicz wanted to grow his own tobacco. I am very passionate about cigars and I have an affinity for agriculture, so when I had the opportunity, I took it. I am not doing this for financial reasons. I wanted to see if I could do it and if I could create a unique product.
The first crop was planted on his farm in Tampa Bay in 2013.
It was a test crop to try out which pressures you can experience, like diseases and insects. You can have one system that works in Nicaragua and one in Connecticut , but it doesn’t mean that it works here.
Jeff started with two Cuban seeds, Corojo and criollo to see how they performed. They performed equally well, but in the end, liked Corona better. So after the first crop, we tried to eliminate the problems we had encountered. We also wanted to see how burned.
If you have burning issues you might as well give up straight away. Last fall, Borysiewicz planted another test crop of Sumatra sun-grown tobacco. In total, he harvested four crops. While the Sumatra tobacco is currently fermenting and raging at Davidoff’s facilities in the Dominican Republic, the Corona crops are doing the same at Drew Estate in Nicaragua.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Corona Cigars, we are using the tobacco at Davidoff to create an exclusive cigar with them. Even though we don’t know where and when we will be able to sample Borysiewicz tobacco, he is confident that we will recognise it when we do.
Every cigar maker works with the same resources, and the idea is to create a unique ingredient with a unique flavour profile. Various regions have different tastes. When you ask ten people to comment on wine or whiskey, for instance, you get ten different answers. But to me, our tobacco has a very leathery aroma, like suede leather, with earthiness. It also has a slight spiciness to it.
When you blend it in a cigar it tends to dominate. If you have a cigar with a Florida sun grown leaf in it, you can detect it. I mean, what would be the point if it just tasted like Corona Nicaragua or Corona Honduras?
Florida has more or less the same climate, and Borysiewisz farm is the closest to Cuba. But that is where the similarities between Florida tobacco and Cuban tobacco end.
I found ours to be just as strong. The colour and the texture is similar, but it’s definitely not as spicy as the Cuban Corojo. Also it burns better. Our soil is sandier, more like Connecticut, so we are producing thinner leaves with more elasticity. Our mineral compound is a little different too.
At the moment, Borysiewicz is producing 5000 pounds per year, and that is where he wants to be. That’s a comfortable production size. We don’t have a huge labour force, and when we have 5000 to 6000 pounds of tobacco in our barn, it’s full.
Jeff is not hoping for a revival of the Florida tobacco growing market either. It wasn’t part of the plan. We have such a disadvantage when it comes to costs that I don’t think is possible. I mean, they are struggling in Connecticut nowadays because they have to compete with the Ecuadorian shade grown tobacco that looks like the one from Connecticut.
Going back to the part of being unique, being the only tobacco farm in. The state does, however, have its advantages. The real beauty is that the cigars you produce are truly limited edition. Normally when brands put out limited editions it’s only a matter of how many cigars you decide to roll. This is really limited, and not for marketing purposes. We only have 20 acres, so this is the real deal.