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 My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading

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Oxman

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Location : Tabora, Tanzania in darkest East Africa
Registration date : 2014-06-05

PostSubject: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:49 pm

Flue Cured Virginia - Grading

The following information is taken from a guide to tobacco grading aimed at the cigarette industry, but the reality is that all pipe tobaccos will have come from the same source and will be graded this way originally.

Grading is the shorthand language that is used by Blenders, Buyers and Growers to describe the main characteristics of different styles of tobacco.


IMG-20130301-00067 by oxmanonline, on Flickr


20130228-IMG_1362 by oxmanonline, on Flickr

Grading is necessary so that tobacco processing factories can be set to the optimum threshing conditions for a particular style of tobacco, in order to optimize yield and quality and reduce waste.

FCV is graded in two different ways:

The purchase grades

These grades are set up so that the farmer knows what is required and he can aim to produce the grades preferred by the merchant.
Grades are priced differently to be fair to the farmer and reward him for growing the more desirable styles.

If a farmer was producing immature greenish styles and was asked to change to mature orange styles he would be losing weight. Thus the difference in price between greenish and orange styles must reflect this weight loss for the farmer to be motivated to change.


Farmer bale of FCV by oxmanonline, on Flickr

Purchasing grades take into consideration:

  • Plant position
  • Colour
  • Quality - Length, Width, Oil, Damage, Injury, Texture, Body Colour Intensity, Maturity, Uniformity, Waste


The plant positions are indicated by a letter as are the colours.
The quality is indicated by a number based on the percentage of damage, spots and blemishes on the leaf.

If we look at the table below, we can see a plant position can potentially produce any of the colours - depending on how long the leaf is left on the plant to ripen.

For example a Good quality Lemon Cutter would be a C3L (C=Cutter, 3= 30-55% spots/blemishes/injury to leaf, L = Lemon)


Plant position - grading by oxmanonline, on Flickr

NB: The number and colour codes are different in some countries!!


The blending grades

These grades are determined after processing the tobacco, to provide a range of blending blocks to the blender so that existing blends can be maintained without a change of smoking character, or new blends can be created.

A blender must have a range of distinctly different styles of tobacco available to him in the same way that a chef must have a range of ingredients in his kitchen to bake a cake or an artist a palette of different colours in order to paint a picture.


A hand of FCV tobacco by oxmanonline, on Flickr

Blending grades take into consideration:

  • Plant position
  • Colour
  • Quality - Length, Width, Oil, Damage, Injury, Texture, Body Colour Intensity, Maturity, Uniformity, Waste
  • Origin (country and region)
  • Chemistry
  • Smoking Quality
  • Cutting Quality (size of tobacco particle distribution in the case)
  • Fill Value
  • Burn Rate
  • Availability


The simple chemistry of plant position and ripeness

Nicotine increases with higher plant position.

Sugar increases from bottom to middle and then decreases from middle to top.

Within a plant position, nicotine increases only slightly with increasing ripeness.

Within a plant position, sugar decreases significantly with increasing ripeness.

Starch will be present in unripe grades but not in ripe grades.

Starch, Nicotine and Sugar all influence the smoking qualities of a grade.


Grading and buying farmer bales by oxmanonline, on Flickr


Nicotine is responsible for Impact - the short sharp throat grip that is felt on inhalation.

When sugar is burnt during smoking it forms a mixture of organic acids.

Acids in the smoke reduce the pH of the smoke.

Nicotine in smoke can occur in two forms known as free base nicotine and bound or salt form.

At low pH, when organic acids formed from the combustion of sugars are present, Nicotine is mainly in the bound or salt form.

At higher pH, close to neutral (pH 7), nicotine is mainly in the free base form. Free base nicotine is a smaller and more active molecule both chemically and physiologically than the bound or salt form.

Impact is thus higher from free base nicotine than from the bound or salt form.

The amount of nicotine present does not change very much with increasing ripeness but that the sugar content reduces significantly. Thus the more sugar present, the lower the pH becomes and the lower the Impact sensation becomes. The lower the sugar content, the higher the Impact sensation becomes.

Starch in an immature grade causes a very large increase in irritant sensations and is usually associated with unpleasant after tastes and off tastes.

The fill value of riper grades is higher than less ripe grades from the same plant position. With high fill value, more tobacco is burnt per puff, at equal firmness and hence more flavour is produced per puff.

In a blend we are looking for a balance of Impact, Flavour and Irritant sensations.


FCV bales in storage - each rack for a different grade by oxmanonline, on Flickr

From a Tobacco Blender’s point of view, fully ripe styles are the easiest to use. Over ripe tobaccos can be easily corrected by the addition of sugar but unripe and immature tobaccos cannot be easily corrected. They are difficult to use and have to be masked with special treatments, casings and flavourings. The use of these special treatments is a greater cost and trouble than paying a little more for fully ripe and mature tobacco. Masking is usually only partially successful as the masking agents also tend to mask the positive attributes of the grades that do not need masking so at best the whole blend has a flat, dull and uninteresting taste.

Each of the characteristics above will be taken into account when deciding on a grade for blending.

So overall, grading is a very technical business.  The actual grades (letters and numbers) used are far too complicated to go into here, but suffice to say, a good buyer and blender would need to recognise up to 200 different grades!


200kg tobacco cases - processed and packed by oxmanonline, on Flickr
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monbla256

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Age : 71
Location : DFW Metroplex, Texas
Registration date : 2012-01-15

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:06 pm

Once again, some required reading by all !! THANK YOU for taking the time and effort to post all of this info  Smile Smile ( Mods, ALL this info and further post of Oxmans along these lines needs be made a STICKY !! Twisted Evil 
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MisterE
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Location : Mexico City
Registration date : 2009-08-24

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:08 pm

Epic post, Oxman!! Thank you!  cheers cheers cheers cheers cheers 

_________________
Many of the greatest pleasures in life are illegal, immoral, or smelly.

-Yak
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fsu92john

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Age : 47
Location : Orlando, FL
Registration date : 2014-01-24

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:10 pm

I love these posts. So much good information.
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Brewdude

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Age : 64
Location : Near the Emerald city
Registration date : 2011-05-04

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:35 pm

Good stuff Oxman. I've seen some other info on other sites through the years but this clearly is the best organised and easily understood by simple folks like me!

 drunken 


Cheers,

RR
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DireWolf

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Age : 44
Location : NW Oregon
Registration date : 2015-01-13

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:06 pm

I'm shocked these three threads have so few replies.

Fantastic stuff. Thanks for taking the time.
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Ozark Wizard

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Age : 53
Location : Mark Twain National Forest, MO
Registration date : 2014-10-11

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Fri Mar 20, 2015 7:50 pm

DireWolf wrote:
I'm shocked these three threads have so few replies.

Fantastic stuff.  Thanks for taking the time.

Yah, I looked this over last time and thought the same thing. Not a lot of DIYers out there I guess. What I wouldn't give for access to bales like that. Only money I guess
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Brewdude

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Age : 64
Location : Near the Emerald city
Registration date : 2011-05-04

PostSubject: Re: My tobacco world - Flue Cured Grading   Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:41 pm

Anyone heard from Ox lately? Hope he's OK.


Question


Cheers,

RR
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