Whole Leaf Tobacco

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
Black Cavendish is a style of tobacco processing that produces a mild, very dark tobacco, that can be used for pipe blending. Black Cavendish is notable for its ability to readily absorb added flavors for aromatic blends. Unflavored, it also makes a wonderful blender when mixed with stronger tobaccos. Smoked straight and without added flavor, it is likely the mildest, bite-free pipe tobacco that you will ever taste.

What makes Black Cavendish is prolonged steaming.

The difference between homemade Black Cavendish and the Black Cavendish that you can purchase at a tobacconist rests in the additives (and perhaps the quality of the tobacco). Most commercial Black Cavendish is flavored (often with vanilla), and usually contains propylene glycol and glycerin, both used as humectants (so it feels fresh forever--like a Twinkie). Flavorings and humectants, almost without exception, increase tongue bite. Your homemade Black Cavendish will have none, unless you choose to flavor it.

You can use any variety of tobacco.
I chose some of BigBonner's excellent air-cured Maryland 609 for this batch. Maryland tobaccos are famous for their absorptive capacity as well as their mildness and low nicotine. You can use any variety. Each will lend its own attributes to the final product.


This is the change we are looking for. MD609 before and after.

In the steps that follow, I've started with about 12 leaves of air-cured MD609. The stems were removed, and the strips were placed within a stainless colander which is nested on top of a pot of gently boiling water.


Find a lid that will fit inside the colander, but will leave a small number
of holes still open above the rim of the pot.


I steamed the leaf for a total of 7 hours. The longer it steams, the darker the leaf will become. The odor for the first couple of hours is not very appetizing. This changes to a soft, fruity aroma later on. Be sure to check the water level in the pot from time to time, and replenish it as needed.


Appearance after only 3 hours of steaming.

Once the leaf is as dark as you'd like, place the colander into the sink and allow it to drain. When most of the excess water has drained, hang the individual leaf strips on a plastic clothes-hanger to dry overnight. This batch fit on a single hanger, which I suspended above the sink. The goal at this point is to dry it down into high case (as opposed to soggy).

With the still-soft leaf, create an even stack, about the size of a sandwich.


This can be a quick, messy stack. Just make it an even thickness.


Transfer the stack into a quart-size Freezer Ziplock for pressing.

Press under about 50 pounds for a few hours.


This is a wall-mounted lever press exerting ~50# (~2 psi).
You could accomplish the same thing between two boards, with a 5 gallon
water-filled bucket on top (~40#).


The goal of the pressing is to allow the layers to partially stick together. In this state, it will mold rapidly, so don't store the resulting press cake without further drying.


From a dozen leaves, I produced a press cake about 1/2" thick.

[Continued below]
Bob
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
Making Cavendish Cut

Cavendish Cut tobacco is basically a stacked ribbon. If a moist press cake is sliced, the shred will partially adhere, and give us that typical appearance of Cavendish Cut. Since many of the shreds are stacked and stuck together, it tends to burn more slowly. Shred width should be between 1/8" and 1/16". Start by cutting the press block into 1" wide strips. This will produce shred of 1 to 1-1/2" in length, after it is rubbed out.


The rocking action of the 6" kulu blade [Kuhn Rikon, $15] easily cuts the press cake in one pass.

Carefully rocking the kulu across the width of the cut strip quickly produces the shred. If this were a taller press cake, say 1" thick, the same pressing and slicing process makes standard "flake," but takes considerably more muscle to cut.


This can be dried as is, and later crumbled as needed into a pipe bowl for flake style.

To complete the Cavendish Cut, take a small amount of the moist flake into the palm of one hand, and gently rub it in a circular motion with the other palm. Do this just enough to loosely rub-out the flake.


It's your choice as to how much you rub-out the flake.

Once all the flake is rubbed-out to your satisfaction, spread it in a 1/2" thick layer on the cutting board to dry. In my kitchen, at ~35% RH, the spread tobacco required more than 8 hours to dry sufficiently. Aim for low case--dry, but still flexible, then store it in a heavy Ziplock or other container.


This batch of a dozen leaves yielded a little over 2 ounces (~60g) of finished Cavendish Cut.

When you need to add moisture to the stored shred, wet a few fingers and flick a few drops into the container, then allow it to restore itself for several hours.

SUMMARY
Making Cavendish Cut Black Cavendish
  • Steam some leaf until it is black.
  • Press it into a cake.
  • Slice the press cake.
  • Rub-out the flake.
  • Dry then store.
Bob
 
Last edited:

BigBonner

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
1,672
Points
63
Location
Kentucky
Bob

Do you add any flavors to yours or any different tobaccos to it afterwards ?
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
I generally don't add flavors to my tobacco. There is a cheap, commercial "Chocolate" tobacco from Dream Castle Tobacco, in Richmond, that I love. It is mostly Black Cavendish. I have yet to figure out a suitable recipe for it that doesn't make it taste like candy.

Otherwise, I sometimes use Black Cavendish to tone down harsher pipe-cut tobacco.

Cornell & Diehl makes a wide selection of aromatic tobaccos that are delicious, probably because they don't taste like their flavor names. Their "Peaches and Cream", for example, is likely vanilla plus peach flavor, but it doesn't smell or taste like peaches and vanilla. It's much more subtle. They have a "blueberry" that doesn't taste or smell at all like berries--it just smells and tastes interesting and good.

Bob
 

Tom_in_TN

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2012
Messages
456
Points
0
Location
East Tennessee
Very good post, Bob. Looks simple enough that even I will attempt this with my home grown. What blends do you favor?
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
My preference in pipe tobacco is English and Balkan style blends (no non-tobacco flavorings added). Having a wide variety of tobaccos on hand can make blending experimentation a lot of fun. I also play with unique burley blends. The Black Cavendish can go into any of them to calm it down or smooth it out. Since BC usually burns well, it can be helpful if added to slow-burners. Latakia, which is a notoriously poor-burner (as are most darkly fired varieties), can be blended with 25% Black Cavendish to yield an eye-opening 75% Latakia that burns well, and still looks like all black tobacco.

By steaming the leaf for a shorter period (like 4 hours), you end up with brown Cavendish, a fruitier, somewhat stronger blender that shows up as the base for a number of Rattray's non-Latakia blends, such as Highland Targe. Brown Cavendish holds its own better against mature Virginia and Perique, though it contributes more of its own flavor than would Black Cavendish.

I should add that a small amount of Black Cavendish added to lighter-colored tobaccos improves the visual appeal of the blend.

Bob
 

Tom_in_TN

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2012
Messages
456
Points
0
Location
East Tennessee
Thanks for the reply. Reading through your post I would also tend toward the non-flavored blends. In other words, let the tobacco taste come through instead of obscuring it with an introduced flavor. I can remember a few cigars, out of the many I have smoked and enjoyed over many years, the ones that really stand out in my mind, were the hand rolled ones that had NO flavors added or introduced into the tobacco. I could, and will in due time, relate some truly mind-blowing cigars I have smoked over the years.

In fact, let me relate my experience with a Don Thomass cigar given to me in a 'herf' many years ago. The cigar given to me was purchased in a typical retail tobacco store specializing in cigars. It was in the 'discount' bin near the counter with other cigars priced at $2 each. So, nothing really special but still a hand-rolled cigar.

OK, I fire the cigar up and I was immediately hit by a flavor of citrus. A soft, sweet citrus flavor. An unidentifiable citrus flavor. Perhaps more akin to an orange flavor if you were to hold a gun to my head and told me I had to 'pin down' the exact taste. I am sucking the smoke down into my throat, about halfway between a full inhale and just getting the smoke into the back of my throat, but then exhaling the smoke out and through my nose. So, there I sat, smoking this absolutely stunning cigar and I am going on and on and on about how great it tastes with everyone around me in absolute disbelief. So, I hand over the cigar to the person who gave it to me and they begin to toke it. Well they get the same flavor as I did and begin to go into the same exact frame of mind that I was in. So, then he passed it around to the others in the group. They had the same exact experience as did I. After a bit of passing the cigar around to everyone it finally, blessedly, came back to me and I was not giving it up again.

Now, my question is this, from where did that taste come? A person could purchase a 1,000 boxes of Don Thomass coronas that came out of the same cigar factory and NEVER experience the same as we all did from that one cigar. How can this be so?
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
Well, I haven't smoked a Don Tomas that I liked since about 1992. The factory was unable to acquire the same leaf during the cigar boom years, and their original blender has since left (died, I think). The hallmark of a fine commercial cigar is consistency. That depends entirely on the blender's nose and palate. Lose the blender, and you have a different cigar.

Look at the attempts over the decades to duplicate the taste and aroma of Balkan Sobranie White pipe tobacco. The best blenders in the world have all tried and failed. They get close, but not quite there. Hell, I've gotten close, but it's not quite right. Even using the original blend card, a different blender will not recognize the inevitable differences in the batches of bulk leaf that make up the ingredients, and so is unable to compensate for the changes. And sometimes, there are "secret" ingredients that the blender sneaks in.

Hoyo de Monterrey (and Punch--the same cigar) always has a specific, distinctive taste that is absent from any other cigar. I've smoked them since 1971. That special taste and aroma has always been there. A few months ago, I acquired some Rabo de Gallo Negro leaf from FmGrowit. Very strong stuff. After kilning, there was something about its aroma that I found compelling and wonderful. Then one day recently I opened some Hoyo cigars that my brother had sent me, and finally made the connection between the Rabo de Gallo Negro aroma and that of the un-lit Hoyo. Have those sneaky devils been inserting a sliver of Rabo de Gallo Negro in their cigars all these years? I don't know. Is that aroma inherent to the Rabo de Gallo Negro variety, or is it the method Don used to cure the leaf (said to be an unusual method)? I don't know. But I can now roll a cigar that approximates that mysterious taste of a Hoyo.

Bob
 

Jitterbugdude

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
4,151
Points
83
Location
Northeast Maryland
Bob, What a timely post. For the past few weeks I have been pouring over my old tobacco books trying to trace the origins of Cavendish. Maybe in a few more days I'll post my findings. So far though it seems that the "original" Cavendish is nothing like what we presently call Cavendish. So far from I've learned it seems to be a pretty interesting transition. I'm relying on old books because the internet is too full of regurgitated stuff like.. Captain Cavendish was the first to make it by adding sugar to tobacco blah blah blah.

Randy B
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
Randy,
Yes. A lot of nonsense out there. I suspect that the origin of the Cavendish process was the accidental result of overly moist tobacco stored in hogsheads exposed to the heat of the sun on the docks, while awaiting the next ship.

Even some respected books, like Alfred Dunhill's 1953 The Gentle Art of Smoking, contain conspicuous errors and mis-comprehensions. Dunhill may have known how to run a business, but he (or possibly his ghost writer) did not fully understand the history and the detailed processes used to make Dunhill tobaccos. For example, his statement that press cake is made under 1.5 "tons per square inch" is patently wrong. That would be equivalent to nearly 1 million pounds of weight on an 18" x 18" press cake, a pressure that would surely produce nothing but a smudge of goo. More likely is 1.5 tons weight (rather than per square inch), which comes out to the more reasonable 9 psi.

My own pressure estimates are based on my stack of leaf measuring about 4" x 6", or 24 square inches of surface--the thickness does not matter. (50#/24 sq. in.) = ~2 psi. The Perique process uses 40 to 50 psi.

Bob
 

Jitterbugdude

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
4,151
Points
83
Location
Northeast Maryland
Well I tried my hand at this last week. I put about 30 stemmed leaves in a colander. I placed the colander in a big crab pot, added water and steamed them for 7 hours. My tobacco did not come out black, but just a little darker than the original Virginia gold leaf that I used. How "hot" of a steam did you use Bob? I had mine set up to just barely have steam escaping past the cocked lid of the pot. Seems like I need to crank up the heat and steam hotter?

Randy B
 

johnlee1933

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
3,974
Points
0
Location
Near Danbury, CT
Bob,

Question on pressing. I plan on adding a little to my cigars. Is the pressing necessary or can I just use the steamed leaves (at the right case).
If I process different leaves I should get different tastes/aromas, Right? Think I could try a pressure cooker?

If I press then the only choice seems to be long shreds and I'm not sure how they'll burn.

Any thoughts?

John
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
13,667
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
Randy,
I'm sure every variety has its characteristics. My plan was to steam them until they turned very dark. Steam closely trapped under a lid should be close to 212ºF, though mine should be a bit lower, since my elevation is about 2000 ft. I guess my description should clarify that you just keep on cooking until done.

How did it come out, so far as taste and aroma?

John,
You have me confused. Yes, different varieties should differ in taste and aroma. If you plan to blend some Black Cavendish into a cigar, I would leave the stemmed leaf strip whole and unpressed, then try an entire strip in the filler, along with 2 or three of a more cigar-like variety. Plan B would be to roll a small blunt with all shredded filler.

Interesting question about the pressure cooker. You'd have to keep it up out of the water at the bottom. Heaven knows how long to cook it at 15 psi. Maybe 2 minutes; maybe 30 minutes? Too long and it will turn into soup.

Bob
 

johnlee1933

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
3,974
Points
0
Location
Near Danbury, CT
John,
You have me confused. Yes, different varieties should differ in taste and aroma. If you plan to blend some Black Cavendish into a cigar, I would leave the stemmed leaf strip whole and unpressed, then try an entire strip in the filler, along with 2 or three of a more cigar-like variety. Plan B would be to roll a small blunt with all shredded filler.

Interesting question about the pressure cooker. You'd have to keep it up out of the water at the bottom. Heaven knows how long to cook it at 15 psi. Maybe 2 minutes; maybe 30 minutes? Too long and it will turn into soup.

Bob
Thanks Bob,

Yes, I plan to roll a bit into a cigar and will try half a leaf to start out. Since I prefer panatellas (34 ring) half a leaf should flavor it just fine. I'll adjust as necessary. Mild is the key word for me. This may permit that and give a more interesting flavor/aroma.

I plan to try the pressure cooker and will post the results as I get them. (If I survive!) :<=))

Hmmmm -- Never had tobacco soup.

John
 

Steve2md

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2012
Messages
538
Points
0
Location
Gilbert Arizona
I am definitely curious. My pop loves cavendish and captain black for his pipe. I have been slowly bringing him over to the "dark side" (cigars). maybe I'll try this and add a strip to a few for him...
 

Aaron

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 2, 2012
Messages
452
Points
0
Location
Canon City CO
Bob, I tried my hand at making some cavendish this last weekend. I used some burley for my test. I'm thinking that I need to get my temperature up a bit next time. I measured between 175 and 180 degrees F with an infrared thermometer. It just never wanted to change color to black. Next time I try this I'm gonna have to kick the wife out of the house for a day so I can use the stove instead of using a crock-pot in the garage. I haven't tried it yet, but it's just about in good case for me to sample some tonight. It sure smells tasty.

Aaron
 

SmokesAhoy

Moderator
Founding Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
2,688
Points
0
Location
VT
I don't get how you are able to do this without turning the leaf into something like canned spinach?
 

Aaron

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 2, 2012
Messages
452
Points
0
Location
Canon City CO
I don't get how you are able to do this without turning the leaf into something like canned spinach?
That's pretty much what it looked like. It was all soggy and nasty looking. 30 minutes into it I was wondering to myself if I had just ruined a hand full of good leaf. I just kept steaming and after probably 4 or 5 hours It was starting to smell good. I think I steamed it for about 8 hours all together. I removed the water and let it dry out a good bit while I kept rotating the pile of soggy leaf, spreading back out as I went.

I just finished my first pipe full and I like it. It definitely mellowed the leaf out a good bit. I'm gonna let it rest for a couple weeks and try it again to see if it gets any better. This will add another nice layer to my blending possibilities. :)
 
Top