Cigar seeds are selected for growing. It takes approximately six weeks to germinate seeds before transplanting to a field; six weeks to grow the tobacco plant to maturity; six weeks for a complete harvest, followed by a series of periods of fermentation.
In the fermentation stage, workers pile slightly moistened tobacco in huge bales or stacks; temperatures inside the bales reach as high as 140° as the cigar "sweats" during the early stages of the fermentation. Some tobacco may be "turned" up to three of four times and remoistened before fermentation finally ceases. The process releases ammonia from the tobacco affecting overall nicotine content.
The fermented tobacco is wrapped in bales, usually surrounded by burlap, to age. Standard aging time is 18 months to two years, although some manufacturers keep inventories of tobacco as old as 10 years. Prior to releasing the bales to the rollers for manufacturing, the bales are moistened again to make the leaves supple.