Station: [9] Cleaning the Tobacco

Tobacco processing was a simple trade, and the factories needed no complicated machinery.

A basic, manually operated centrifuge was used to clean the tobacco. The leaves were whirled around in there until all the dust, dirt and bird droppings that had accumulated during their time in the curing barn fell out. 

The fermenting process didn’t require any expensive equipment, either. The workers piled the leaves up into large stacks. Inside these stacks, a fermentation process was triggered and started breaking down constituents of the leaves such as tannic acid, sugars and proteins. The nicotine content was also reduced, and the delicate aroma of the tobacco was able to develop. To ensure that all of the tobacco was uniformly exposed to the fermentation process, the stacks had to be turned over several times. The entire process took several weeks. These days, fermentation is often speeded up and simplified by supplying heat externally. However, it’s essential to ensure that the tobacco doesn’t overheat, because that would ruin it. The optimum fermentation temperature is between fifty and sixty degrees Celsius. 

Cigars made in bad times from unfermented tobacco were nicknamed “Dachratten” – roof rats. Which suggests a flavour not much better than if you smoked a dried rat.

All depictions: © Oberrheinisches Tabakmuseum Mahlberg