The Tobacco plant’s Latin name is Nicotiana tabacum, which bares a notably resemblance to Jean Nicot (link to history of tobacco), who around 1560 made a fortune selling the plant in Europe.
The plant belongs to the Solanaceae plant family, which surprisingly enough makes it related to known vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants!
A cultivated tobacco plant normally grows to be about one or two feet high and has five flower petals, which can be colored wither white, yellow, pink or red. The fruit of the tobacco plant measures about 1.4 mm and consist of a capsule containing seeds for further production.
The leafs, from which the tobacco is being made, are huge compared to the rest of the plant. They can be become around 50cm long and 25.5cm wide. The shape of the leafs can be egg-, heart- or oval-shaped and they grow towards the base of the plant. The underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy.
The leafs of the plant are the interesting part, since this is where the nicotine is placed. But the nicotine is actually being transformed in the roots of the plant and then transported through the plant to the leafs! The content of nicotine in the leaves various from species to species and some, like the leaves from Nicotiana rustica, can contain up to 18% nicotine.
We cultivate the tobacco plant annually, but the plant itself is actually perennial, which means that it can live for at least three years and maybe more.
The plant is propagated through seeds, which are sown in beds. The plant grow between six and ten weeks before being transferred into the fields, where the heads are being topped off before the seeds are being developed. In this way all of the plants energy will be used to increase the size and thickness of the leaves, where the tobacco is placed.
The plant is grown in the field for three to five months until harvest, where the leaves are removed and wilted in drying barns. The way the leaves are being dried depends on the type of tobacco the farmer wants to end up with. Burley tobacco, which has a strong and almost cigar-like flavor, is air-cured in barns for about two months. Flue-cured tobacco is air-cured in heated barns and only takes about a week. The flue-cured tobacco has a much lighter and brighter aroma compared to Burley tobacco (Grise. V, 1988).
After the curing process the tobacco will be sold to various manufacturers, whom will add moisture to make the tobacco pliable. The manufacturers remove the larger stems and then compress the tobacco into boxes called ‘hogsheads’. The tobacco will now be stored away for approximately two years, which will allow the tobacco to undergo a natural aging process.
When the two years are up, the boxes will be moved to primary processing facilities, where they will be exposed to heating processes and have moisture added to them. It is also in this process that the tobacco will be divided, cut, blended and have flavor added to them according to the various recipes of cigarettes the market consist of today.
The blended tobacco will then be delivered to the cigarette making machines within the factory. The machine will then allow measured amounts of tobacco to fall down on prepared cigarette paper. The paper is wrapped around the tobacco and sealed of, which are then cut to proper length for cigarettes. Filter-tipped brands have a double-length filter inserted between every two cigarettes and then cut in half to produce two cigarettes with each one of them having a filter.
Packer machines insert the cigarettes into packs, packs into cartons and cartons into cases, which are then conveyed to the Finished Goods department. From here they will be shipped to warehouses and sold to various distributors and finally end up in the hands of the consumers (PhilipMorrisUSA).