- FYI, this is a work in progress – I will be documenting my day as I go.
17th January 2020- Awoken by constant ducks crackling for food (it is almost 6am here), the pleasant moo mooing of cows, roosters being annoying as usual to tell you it is time to wake up as the sun is coming up, some weird vibrating noises that sound like a vibrating cell phone coming from I don’t know what kind of animal and some purring coming from some sort of bird. Then there was a constant scratching at the wall next to where I slept that sounded like some kind of Honduran mole trying to burrow itself into my skull.
This cacophony of welcoming and pleasant sounds lets you know that it’s farm life you are experiencing now.
Having crashed into bed at around 9pm, I had a long long journey from Kuala Lumpur to Danli, Honduras.
For those interested, here is how I got there:
Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo on Japanese Airlines
Tokyo to Dallas Fort Worth on American Airlines
Dallas Fort Worth to Toncontín International Airport (IATA: TGU, ICAO: MHTG) – Tegucigalpa (the city)
And, I did this on Economy class! It’s not that bad really. Think about those times where people had to sit in a boat for months just to escape their country. We are so blessed in this day and age!
Tegucigalpa to Danli (where all the tobacco is) – 2 hours by car. There is no highway and the roads are acceptable in a swervy way. Twists and turns but nothing that would make you sick (I speak from experience)
On a quest, as is my life. My life is a quest to discover and experience all of what this wonderful world can offer us.
A constant adventure I tell myself.
I distinctly remember that I wanted to blog about my first cigar related adventure travel, which was to Cuba a few years ago. Life went on and I didn’t do anything – I still plan to write about it (I went again to Cuba a few months ago and decided that I didn’t really like it, I knew that the first time already, but that is going to be another story).
Then there was the Dominican Republic. Oh wow, what a difference to Cuba! From the food to the way they manufacture their cigars with precision, seriousness (they use metal molds with electronic presses to measure the exact force, to the leaf pulling desks to ensure consistent draws, to technologically advanced equipment, I could go on and go, but alas, that my cigar loving friend, is for another story, which I promise I will do)
So yeah, they say that doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity so I looked at my life and saw that for many years I was just doing the same thing. Results didn’t really change. So it is time to do something new. And this is the time and this blog is just one of them.
Coming back to our main story, the airport in Honduras is small but efficient.
Passport control is a cinch and I didn’t need a visa. Please check online if you plan to travel there whether you need a visa or now.
The lines were short, even though the flight was full.
Bags came out zippingly fast and I breezed past Customs to be greeted by Justo of Aladino cigars (oh boy, I do have stories to tell you about cigar history!)
Into his pickup truck we went and made our way to Danli. The cigar mecca of Honduras which was started by his Father! (more on that later, stay tuned)
The roads were easy and looking around, it is interesting to see that while it is not a super developed country, there are buildings all around, albeit small ones and you could feel that there is a sense of modernity around the this city yet at the same time, that nostalgic country rustic feel.
One thing that ran through my mind was that I was wondering, when am I going to see a Chinese restaurant. Boom! Before you knew it, I saw 2. They are everywhere!
Justo told me that the Chinese in Honduras are traders, own hardware and grocery stores as well as restaurants. Can’t beat them, they sure work hard and learn the language no matter where in the world they go!
We reached El paraíso, 18 km from Danli.
Las Lomas, Jamastran where the compound is across the 9th Army Battalion.
The stainless steel fences showed no signs of rust and are immaculately well maintained. Small things like this show signs of quality of which Aladino revels in.
Justo shows me my room which is comfortable and also shows me across the building, another building which has another 10 rooms to house guests.
“When we owned Camaco (before it was sold to Davidoff), we used to host over 300 retailers at our pool side” commented Justo (pictures and that story to follow!).
I met with his Father, Julio R. Eiora – a colourful man with an equally colourful life. He broke his spine while he was flying a plane but you can feel his gusto and love for tobacco when he speaks.
Listening as they spoke about the past and how Julio built this business from a forest, makes my heart warm and just proves how anything is really possible as long as you put your mind to it and are willing to work hard and keep on working hard.
Dinner was served and it was a pleasant meal with mushroom soup, white rice, potatoes with beef gravy, yam and vegetables and then cake as dessert.
Then more cigars and then I crashed into bed.
That was just day 1?
The Silent Giant
Today is day 2 and I am now getting read to go grab some eggs for breakfast (need that protein!), a cigar and the farm tour.
Breakfast was refried beans with tacos, cream cheeses as well as some watermelon. Simple but hey, simple can be best at times.
The first place we headed to was the plantations where they plant the seeds to grow the leaves.
Since this probably the only completely integrated facility, we only had to drive a few minutes through the estate.
To my surprise and delight, they had a disinfectant room where all everyone has to go through to remove any bacteria that would affect the plants as well as a shoe disinfectant bin where you tap your shoes in as well as wash basins to wash your hands with disinfectant.
Never seen that before in any other plantation. I have visited many plantations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic and none have this level of sanitation.
Next to this station is a clinic. This is also the only plantation that I have seen that has a clinic on site where they provide a doctor with medical supplies to take care of the staff.
The owners really care about their staff and this is one point that really shows and shines. Makes my heart melt a little. To make a cigar from start to finish, even though there are machines that can help, still require a lot of labour and without good people tending to it, your finished product will turn out horribly. I feel that this is one way to show that you are about your people.
We hopped in the car and drove to the workshop where there are huge John Deer machines, ploughing machines, tractors and all sorts of machinery that they have for preparation and harvesting.
These are expensive machines!
They have in house mechanics that fix everything.
Then we had a look at the plants. They are the only ones who grow the original Corojo plant.
Did you know that the first country in the world to grow the Corojo plant (which was used to make all the pre-embargo cigars in Cuba), was in Honduras!
They still are the only ones who grow the true, pure, authentic and original Corojo plant as it is very difficult and requires a lot of care and time, not to mention effort.
While many manufactures in cigars choose to use different combinations of leaves from many different countries, this farm is probably the only one who uses the whole plant to make the wrapper, binder and filler.
What is also crazy is that they only use 2 filler leaves! That means a wrapper, binder and 2 filler leaves. Most manufacturers use 3 filler leaves.
Why? More on that later.
Also being grown are Habano plants and one more…
Everything they grow here is sun grown, which means they do not even use the mesh netting to block the sun (a lot of farmers use the mesh net to block the sun so that the leaves grow thinner and bigger, but this affects the taste obviously as more sun will make the leaf grow thicker with more nutrients resulting in a fuller taste)
This farm is also the only that that is Green Certified by Bayer and as I share with you how they grow their crop, you will be blown away by the amount of detail, effort and care that they put in to harvest their crops.
First time in a plantation that I have seen drip feed irrigation.
Lines and lines of rubber hoses follow the plants where water is drip fed to the plants on demand. They can constantly adjust this.
With the soil testing that they do constantly, they are able to know precisely what nutrients are present and can adjust the fertilizer (again, 100% organic as they are certified by Bayer, so there is no messing around).
And by doing this, they can make the plant grow to it’s full potential. What that means for us is the maximum amount of flavour and quality that the leaf can produce.
This is next level….it totally blew my mind when they can totally control the plants with water and fertilization. I never knew that this technology existed!
Their plantation uses the latest as well as proven technology from over 50 years of experience.
We had a look at the green houses and it’s the same deal. You need to disinfect your shoes as well as your hands.
The little tobacco plants are cute and it is in here that they are grown. Once they read a certain size, they are then transplanted into the open field.
All by hand!
They have 52 tobacco barns and 26 green houses, which they can expand!