The Secrets of Latakia Tobacco
Strictly speaking, Latakia is not a tobacco brand but rather the name of a Mediterranean port city in Syria. Tobacco farming in this area has been going on for hundreds of years to produce a special type of tobacco. The recipe comes from a fortuitous comportment of some Syrian farmer. After a bumper crop, the tobacco leaves were stored in the home's rafters. The tobacco leaves, over time, become covered with smoke particles generated from interior cooking fires. The creosote covered leaves imparted a smokey characteristics to the leaves.
Once the phenomenon was discerned, the technique evolved. The tobacco used is the "shekk-el-bint" that has long narrow leaves that have evolved to thrive in a low moisture of the extremely warm weather of Syria. After harvesting, the leaves are sun-cured and then suspended from barn rafters and slowly smoked with special wood essences and local herbs, imparting an exquisite smokey flavor. The method used is called "fire cured". The process traditionally takes around 14-16 days. This method imparts a very peculiar flavor that tends to be very assertive with spicy overtones and a tangy after taste.
The Latakia type tobacco has recently inherited a serious predicament. The government of Syria has outlawed the burning of traditional wood used in the fermenting of the leaves. The tobacco is still grown but the production is unstable due to political unrest. Today, Oriental tobaccos such as Ismir and Basma from Turkey, must be exported to Cyprus for the "fire curing".
Oriental tobaccos grow differently than American tobaccos. The plants themselves are quite different; they are half the height of Virginia tobacco but with up to four times the leaves. This is the compliant strategy of the Oriental tobaccos to adapt to a hot dry climate. Upon harvesting the tobacco crop, the growers then have to sun-cure the leaves. These small leaves must be sewn together to prevent the wind sweeping them away and hung on A-frame dryers outside to desiccate in the sun. The leaves are then unstrung and sent to Cyprus for the "fire-cure". This is a labor-intensive travail as the fire embers used to transform the leaves must be continually tended.
From Cyprus, the Latakia is then reshipped to Turkey where it is placed on the market. The product is so in demand that its supply, which is almost exclusively for pipe tobacco, is pre-sold. Even with all these trials and entrepreneurial challenges, we can enjoy a luxury that the nose seldom experiences. You can try the best of a Latakia blend by clicking right here.