Sunday, August 26, 2012

Esteli, Cigars, Telica, Caterpillers

Here are some random photos since its been a while since I last posted. 
Moth in Esteli
Nicaragua and Esteli are famous for their cigars.  So we went on some cigar factory tours in Esteli.  There are so many factories.  A few of the Cigar factories we went to were American Caribbean Cigars which produces Tomano as well as Santiago and Drew Estates.   All three had good English speaking guides and both American Caribbean Cigars and Santiago sell cigars.  I also recommend the small factories which may not give formal tours and probably not in English but many do sell cigars that are supposed to be top quality. 
Santiago Tobacco Factory (Rocky Patel and Nica libre) Tour Cost: Free (tips accepted)
They harvest tobacco 2 times  year in the winter and summer.  They have two monkeys in a cage one capuchin and spider monkey.  In the process you can see that most of the materials are reused or recycled.  They have their own fields and when they cut the cigars they use the ends to be rolled into lesser quality cigars.  The other scraps are brought back to the fields to be composted.  They make 400 to 500 cigars a day.  Cigar rollers can make .25 to 1 cord per cigar which experienced cigar rollers can make around 300 a day, which would average around $5 to $12 a day.  The guide said 45% of the population here work in some area of tobacco.  They make their own boxes. The factory had around 250 working in the past but due to the economy downturn or other factors they have less demand and now only have around 60 workers and have about 100 in the fields. Recently the US tax on cigars was raised from 5 cents to 45 cents and this may have caused decrease in orders.  They are producing around 5,000 cigars a day now but in the past they have produced around 50,000.  In all of Esteli there are around 80 Tobacco factories. The largest tobacco factories in Esteli have just over a thousand workers.  Everything in all the factories is done by hand even at big or small factories.  You can try the cigars as well as buy them here.  They will even let you try to roll a cigar.  I forgot to ask but I had been told they produce an organic cigar and that they have contracts with Arnold Schwarzanegger and the Playboy mansion.    

Drew Estates (Liga Privada and Acid, Ambrosia, Isla del Sol) Tour cost: Free (Tips for guide accepted)
They are a much larger factory.  They produce around 87-92,000 cigars a day and have around 1200 people working in their factory.  They buy their tobacco from a cooperative.  They also purchase boxes from a maker in Nicaragua.  Wrapping and taking off the center vein of the leaf is a role that only women fill as they believe the women are more detail oriented.  Some of their bigger labels are Liga privada which retails in the US for around $250 and Acid.  Too bad they are part of the Nicaragua free zone where they do not have to pay taxes but also cannot sell within the country so we were not able to buy any cigars there.  The guide here said the there are more than 30 factories and that 30% of the population are employed in the tobacco industry.  These figures are very different than the numbers I received at Santiago but nonethess there are many tobacco factories in Esteli and the tobacco industry certainly supplies a large percentage of the population jobs here.  The guide Mike gave us a few free samples to try at home.          
On the Santiago tour they reuse all parts of the tobacco. 

There were lots of caterpillers on my treks.  

More caterpillers

Telica at night where the camera picks up the red glow from the volcano
 Went on a tour in Miraflores.  The tour in Miraflores was quite disappointing as we were told the guide would be with us for 8 hours and it was only 5 hours the first day and 3 hours the second day and the guide kept saying he didnt want any complaints cause the tour was only 3 hours.  While I wouldnt recommend the guides the homestays were nice.. Both places had great food and the families were very nice.  There wasnt too much to do there but relax and read and it rained alot but we enjoyed it. 
Miraflores reserve outside of Esteli

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