Ever run out of decent pipe tobacco? In a first world country, and as long as you are a functioning member of the work-to-consume-zombie-society, this should not be an issue.
I live in Paraguay. And my funds are limited at the moment. So importing stuff is out of the question – and Paraguay is not a pipe smoker country. Not at all. No freaking body smokes pipes here, apart from very few other Europeans and some stoners… LOL.
The heat helps – I had not smoked a pipe for almost 2 years, and hardly even missed it. But then came a day where I longed for some curly smoke… and one day later I walked into a despensa (one of the small local stores that carry almost everything, although no great selection or variety) and what did I see: TOBACCO. What the actual fuck. Never seen it before, and I’ve been living here for almost five years now…
No, not some well designed cans and pouches filled with my favorite blends – the universe was not SO kind. It provided me with a challenge: blue plastic bags, stuffed with cruelly maltreated, rather dry tobacco leaves. Roughly cured and … well, beyond saving? I decided to give it a try.
Of course this was some rather rough and tough tobacco variety, and the curing had been done in a ditch in the earth, it seemed – the locals chew that stuff, they told me. Well, at least “natural” tobacco, maybe even “organic”. I cut up some of it, and tried it… EEEEWWWWWWW. Nah, totally unsmokable.
But I remembered reading about the “old” ways – a few decades back many pipe smokers purchased raw tobacco leaves and treated and cured their own tobacco, did some blending, and happily smoked the result…
So here is my “how to make your own pipe tobacco” mini-tutorial… for those in need, or those who like to experiment.
Get some tobacco leaves, preferably mildly pre-cured and dried, but not toooo dry.
Here you see mine hanging among my tools:
Well, what do we do with those poor bastards? Lets have a closer look and feel:
Should be dry, but not so dry they break, dirt from the curing in ditches has to be removed…
Let’s prepare them for their treatment: roughly rip them up or cut pieces, avoiding the very hard veins, so that you can make a stack that fits into a typical tobacco can (or whatever you are going to use).
Well, still looks a bit dry, that stuff, eh? Let’s add some gravy… ;-)
I cooked up a solution of molasses, bit water, raisins, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. You can add other spices, plums, booze – there are quite a few recipes out on the web… That stuff will now be applied to each and every single tobacco chunk. You can use a brush or spray it on, or briefly soak the leaves in the solution.
Now we pack the tin or whatever container we want to use with the wet leaves and squeeze in as many as possible – should be tightly packed. Let the tobacco rest for a couple days, up to a week. It will do a little additional fermenting (resulting in a smoother smoke), and the aromas from our “gravy” are absorbed. The place should be warm, but not too hot – here the climate is more than enough. Bit careful, esp. during weather conditions with high humidity – or you might find mold growing on your tobacco. Check it daily and see if it smells moldy or if everything is ok – if in doubt, end the process a bit earlier. If you have a bit of mold growing on it – don’t despair, you can still wash it off, we will apply HEAT enough in the next step, won’t do any harm.
We will now “bake” the tobacco – this will help the aromas to “stick”, and dry off some of the excess moisture. You can use an oven at low/medium temperature, or put a stone in a cooking pot, place the tin on that and heat it on stove top (just opened the lid so you can see more ;-) ) How long depends a bit how and how generously you applied the gravy earlier…
After the baking the tobacco will still be quite wet, but if you squeeze it, no liquid should come out.
Now comes the cutting. There are little machines (you can find a tobacco cutter on Amazon) for that where you get a more precise cut and it is easier to keep the chosen width – but some scissors will do just fine, good for your fine motor skills ;-)
I cut mine quite rough. You can grab 2-3 chunks of tobacco, roll them up, and then cut – more efficient than cutting every single leaf, and easier to grab, since the tobacco is still very wet and soft.
Almost done. Let the result dry off naturally until it is just right for the pipe. Tuna can strictly optional.
And then – enjoy a very …. errrmm…. “authentic” smoke!
The quality of the smoke will be determined by a lot of factors – from the type of tobacco you purchased and your “gravy” recipe, to the fermentation and baking process. I had very smokable results – and some that were not so great, LOL
In any case: with a good strong coffee and some sugar cane booze this “almost self made” tobacco ain’t that bad anymore… Have fun experimenting!
P.S.: pretty cheap the whole thing – I paid about 1 Dollar for the bag of tobacco (with quite a few leaves in it), plus the ingredients for the gravy etc. I had 3-4 tins of tobacco for 3 bucks… ;-)
OK guys – classic win/win proposal!
You help me out – I help you out!
I am a fellow pipe smoker, author, and a few other things – a German expat living in Paraguay (that weird little country in the center of South America…). Most of my time is dedicated to voluntary work (environmental, animal rights, etc.), and I get along with a minimum amount of money (around 200-300 bucks/month, seriously.)
But that is not the worst part (actually I chose this and am not whining about it).
The worst part is: there is no freaking decent pipe tobacco to be found in this country!
People smoke like chimneys, but only disgusting cheap cigarettes.
SO. Here is the deal:
You send me a tobacco you want to promote.
I smoke it.
What do you get:
- a short funny video review of your tobacco on Youtube, incl. a link to your store (or whatever you want to promote)
- a review (with the video embedded) on my Estate Pipe blog (dailyestatepipe.wordpress.com) AND on my pipe auction listing site (www.estatetobaccopipes.com – several thousand visitors every month, buying estate pipes and most likely in need of tobacco on a regular basis… ;-) )
- a mention on my facebook accounts/pages.
Yes I know, that is quite a lot in exchange for a measly tin of tobacco – but you have to send it to me, so you have the trouble… :) …and I want to provide value in exchange.
Keep the package under 2 kg (helps with our corrupt customs…) and please declare as a worthless gift.
Independencia, 9600 Guiara
(poste restante, Melgarejo)
… shoot me a message on FB or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), so I am warned and can bug the post office (postal service is a bit special here, like everything else…LOL).
Thanks in advance!
Martin the Wanderer