It was an early Tuesday morning, the smell of rain traveled through the air and the sky was a breathtaking mix of baby blue, white and pastel pink. The air still had a tint of coldness to it, and the land was still waking up to the animated chirping of birds and shouts of street vendors clogging the highway.
We kept driving for scarcely five minutes trying to find the secret treasure, a peculiar wonderland filled to the brim with mystery, legends, and stories that surround one of the oldest products in human history; a luxury product that rests in between your lips and its taste lays upon your tongue.
And suddenly, there it was. Tucked away in the sleepy city of Santiago Tuxtla, an old as time factory is buzzing with activity. It looks impeccable, as if it were brand new with its polished doors and handles. We parked the car near the factory and got out of it, and made our way to the building.
But even before I entered, the scent of chocolate crawled up my nostrils and took over my brain. I could almost feel the smoke in my mouth, dancing around my teeth and caressing my taste buds as if it were the embrace of two long lost lovers who have finally reunited after an eternity of not seeing each other. The scent is so appealing that you can’t help yourself but to want more.
Hidden away in the south of the State of Veracruz, in the region of Los Tuxtlas, San Andrés Tuxtla is a small and sleepy town with vast fields of vibrant green grass all around, as well as the home of Mexico’s finest tobacco. It is also the place where the headquarters of the cigar factory Santa Clara, a company which began in 1967 by Jorge Ortiz Alvarez, is located.
A crew of kind and attentive guides received us at the door, briefly introduced themselves and soon after they let us into the workshop through those wooden, dark brown doors. The interior is very minimalistic, it only has the needed equipment and few workers, but the place is alive with movement and sounds, you can practically feel the energy and dedication these people put into their work tickling your skin. The chocolaty smell becomes stronger inside, but a tint of cherry mingles with it; it is strong but not unbearably so; it was quite a unique smell.
The general manager, a friendly middle-aged man with caramel brown skin greeted us and explained to us in detail what it takes to make a cigar like theirs as well as the equipment and actions the employees were doing in their small work stations. He showed us different leaves they used since they have more than one type of cigar, let us get near the stretchy, brown, dried leaves, and allowed us to smell them up close and personal as well as touch their 100% organic, natural glue they use to stick the leaves together when they role them into a tube.
The smell of the leaves could change, they could smell so mildly that nothing could be perceived or too much to the point where the odor tickles your nose, but beware of the organic glue, it has a really potent and strange scent. Smell it at your own expense!
The whole time the workers, as well as the general manager, were willing to answer our questions and attentive to our needs, they explained their history and cracked jokes here and there to the rhythm of the machines and the movement of the employees, it truly was a comfortable setting. They were respectful towards us, but their speech wasn’t rigid, there wasn’t a barrier, it seemed as if they were talking to an old friend, to a daughter or to a son, with lots of patience and understanding towards our none existing knowledge of such a fine craft.
Nonetheless, all good adventures come to an end. So, after thanking our guide and the workers for allowing us into their work place, we got outside. The land had woken up and the soft leaves form the emerald trees were dancing in the wind; the sky was a vibrant blue with the sun’s brightness burning our napes.