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Farming: Cigar Color Sorting and Packaging
It’s been a great experience sharing with you how we do things here at Tabacalera Perdomo. We’ve come a long way over the past year, and this month’s column, which covers color sorting and packaging brings us to the end of the line. I’ll have more to say about this at the end, but for now, let’s get started…
We’ll describe how cigar color sorting and packaging is executed.
Color sorting is the process of selecting the cigars that are as identical in color (as humanly possible) prior to packaging. Whether it’s a box of 20 cigars, 25, or any other configuration, we color sort every box of cigars that goes out the door. That’s why when you open a box of Perdomo cigars they look uniform and much more attractive to the eye.
Marjorie Reyes, is our chief color sorter. She’s been with the company for 10 years, so I have complete faith in her ability. This is a very important and specific job that’s done on a white Formica tabletop with bright room lighting so she can see more detail in the colors as she and the other sorters work. According to Marjorie, she has found 72 color variations. In addition to color, she is also looking for any imperfections in the wrappers like spots, etc., and this quality control extends to packaging where they will also look for any slight imperfections before being banded and celloed.
When she’s completed the color sorting, Marjorie will make a bundle of 40 cigars, enough for two boxes. When you look at the bundle, you’ll notice that 20 cigars are facing with the heads out, while the other 20 are facing with the feet out. The 20 cigars facing one way are for one box, while the remaining cigars are for the second box. We do this to save time when the cigars go to packaging. Plus, packaging will know that every cigar has been color sorted, so there’s no room for error.
Keep your bands and your cellophane straight
From the color sorting room the cigars are sent to box banding and packaging. At these tables you’ll find the workers divided between those who apply the cigar bands, those who place the cellophane wrappers over the banded cigars, and those who place the completed cigars in the boxes.
The most important thing, as with all of the processes we perform here, is attention to detail. For example, how the glue is placed on the bands, the measurement for every size cigar and brand line extension, and each is done exactly the same way for uniformity. Speaking of which, the attention to detail includes placing the band on the “face” of the cigar (the most attractive side of the cigar), to ensure that every cigar looks absolutely perfect.
For some cigars, like the Perdomo Habano, there are two bands, one at the neck plus a foot band. Another nice touch we add, which comes from an old Cuban method, is labeling the foot band with wrapper type such as Corojo, Maduro, Connecticut, etc.
You may notice that when you remove the cello from a cigar some cellos feel thin, while others have a thicker feel. We use 140 mil cellophane, which doesn’t wrinkle when touched, or twist when the cigar is removed from its box. Here again is another quality control thing we do. Something you may not know about cellophane is, the wrappers also have a “face” to them. There is also a barely visible seam in each cello that represents the center of the cello. Before the worker places the banded cigar inside the cellophane she must find the center of the cellophane so the band is perfectly straight.
During the boxing stage, even though the bands have been centered, the workers take the time to ensure that the cigars fit perfectly in the box. When you open a box of our cigars, it should be flawless, and that’s what we try to do by taking those extra quality control steps.
Once the cigars have been banded, celloed and boxed, it’s time for one last quality control step before we seal the boxes and ship them out. We have four ladies who are in charge of final quality control. First, they make sure that the box is clean and dust-free. She’s also looking for any glue marks, and other minor defects. Once she’s satisfied that the box is clean, she will carefully pull the cigars out of the boxes and apply glue on the inserts before placing them in the box. We do this to ensure that the cellophane is perfectly taut. The reason you want the cellos taut is so you can see the true beauty of the cigars when the box is opened, because ideally, the cigars should look flawless. As she pulls the cigars out, again she’s looking for the face of the cigar because we want it to look very clean.
By the time the cigars reach this stage they have been quality control inspected 22 times. If you look at the bottom of each box, there are labels with the name of the inspector and the final sorter, so when the boxes are received in Miami, we know who made the cigar, who quality control checked the cigar and who packed the cigars. This gives us a complete time frame of that particular box from start to finish.
Ship ’em out!
Now that the cigars are ready to ship, we place them in one of two shrink wrap machines. The wrap is heated to 311 degrees Fahrenheit to seal the box, which then goes through a tunnel system, and the result is a perfectly wrapped box. From there the boxes are sealed in cartons, which are later placed in shipping containers where they begin their journey to our Miami facility or some other destination around the world.
In closing, I’d like to thank you all for following this series. Everything I’ve explained, both in writing and by showing you snippets from our video documentary comes straight from the heart. Most of all I’d like to thank you, the consumer. We can make the best cigar in the world, but if you don’t buy it, it means nothing. My Dad used to tell me, “Son, you’ve followed The American Dream.” We started in 1992 working out of my garage, and I used to deliver the cigars in my son’s baby carriage because I couldn’t afford a UPS account at the time.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with something my Father told me that holds true for anyone who wants to be successful at what they do: “With a lot of hard work and a lot of determination, you can get anything you want in this country,” and that’s the truth.