What to Do with Raw Virginia Leaf

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alexj52

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 26, 2018
177
19
I recently purchased some fresh Virginias from Leaf Only, and then ground them for smoking. It worked nicely when mixed with some English blends, but would just taste like hay and burn my tongue when consumed on its own. I was looking forward to getting a true "Straight Virginia", but it isn't working right now. What can I do to make this a rather smokable Straight VA?

 

jitterbugdude

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 25, 2014
993
6
This may be news to you but you ARE getting a true "Straight Virginia". All the commercial blends you've been buying are adulterated one way or another. There are several options though. Shred your tobacco instead of grinding it. The width of the cut has a lot to do with how fast it burns. There are plenty of cheap shredders available. Or, lacking one you can roll a few leaves up like a cigar and then slice small ribbons off the end with a sharp knife. Also, adding a small amount of Perique will tame the Virginia very nicely. Whole Leaf Tobacco sells St James Whole Leaf Perique, or you can buy it already shredded from SmokingPipes. What was your moisture level? Too dry or too wet will hot when you smoke it. Finally, consider the fact that maybe the leaf you bought needs to be aged.
Edit: I just remembered. If you buy some Perique, go ahead and get some Turkish and add that too. For starters just try a 50% Virginia, 40% Turkish and 10% or so of Perique. Just grab your leaf and visually make your mix. This is just a starting point. The real pain in the ass The real fun will be when you start tweaking your mixture.

 

davek

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 20, 2014
685
946
Jitterbugdude is an unequaled blender of non-commercial tobacco.
I will add that Burley will also tone down the bite of Virginia. These are traditional, time tested, blends as in Va/Per and Va/Bur. Takes more Burley to do so than it takes Perique and it'll give you a different taste obviously. so t comes down to what you like.
I like Burley, so in my case I'm using Virginia to tone down the Burley alkaline bite. Something like 90% Burley and 10% Virginia for a very Burley forward blend.

 
Aug 9, 2013
29,332
53,098
Helena, Alabama
What kind of Virginias are they? Really, most pipe blends of Virginias are taken from the lower half of the plant, because the top sections tend to have more nicotine and harsher burning qualities. I am not sure how they are divided by that company, but it could be that you are trying to smoke that top leaf in your pipe, which will taste more harsh that you may have experienced with pipe Virginias. The lower leaf has more flavor, less harsh, and less nicotine.
Also, Virginias usually go through a couple of sweats before they hit the market, which translates into two summers in storage. Then usually, they get a couple of years of aging and getting tumbled before they are blended. On my own crop, I don't much care for smoking freshly cured leaf either. So, I make twists or shred the leaf, and set them back. After a couple of years some fermentation will definitely benefit the leaf. There are even some commercial pipe tobaccos that don't excite me till after being jarred for a few years.

 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
38,093
47,503
I've tried some air-cured non-processed leaf from Haiti and Dominican Republic, and it's pretty rough. It is clear why blenders put tobacco through the processing they do. I don't try to improve on what's available retail, though it's fun to try the "natural" product.

 

ophiuchus

Lifer
Mar 25, 2016
1,528
1,937
Hmmm ... I wonder how that would be for chewing? :puffy:
(Don't listen to me ... it might be hideous.)

 

alexj52

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 26, 2018
177
19
@jitterbugdude Thanks! Unfortunately, I only ordered Virginias this time so I'll just have to use them as a filler for my commercial tobaccos or make an order for some Perique and Orientals when I get sick of it. Now that I think of it I dried the leaves quite a lot, to the degree that it barely won't crumble into powder. Should I hydrate it like any other tobacco?
@davek Thanks! Using the VA to tone down the Burley bite seems like a very good idea. Maybe I should try that.
@Cosmic Thanks for the explanation. Link

Maybe this could give you a hint? I just jarred them in a Mason jar. Would it ferment that way too, or should I do something to initiate the fermenting process?
@mso489 Sure thing... now I get why processed tobacco has to be a lot more expensive than in its raw state. It's like crude oil and petroleum :roll:

 

davek

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 20, 2014
685
946
Some people like the whole leaf better, some do not. Personally, I have some kind of sensitivity to something they add to at least many commercial blends. Gives me bad bite and can make me actually feel ill over time smoking it. This week I'm blaming humectants for that.
So, it's all in your taste. If you do find you like whole leaf, your wallet will be happy. Especially if you grow yourself.
It helps in my case that I have fairly plebeian tastes. I like tobacco to taste like tobacco.
Jitterbugdude is a master blender with stuff he grows himself. He sent me a sample pack of his blends some time ago. I can tell you that it is possible to make blends which taste like fine pipe tobacco just by blending tobacco varieties. I smoked his stuff with a couple pipe smokers locally and they were soundly impressed as well.

 

jitterbugdude

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 25, 2014
993
6
Your tobacco will age in the jar if it is moist enough and warm enough. How much moisture? That's part of the learning curve. Typically you want it moist enough so that when you squeeze the leaves they are slightly pliable.. it's a learning experience. Also, keep it in a warm place to help. Moisture and heat is what helps aging ( called sweating)
Keep in mind,too moist=mold. I use a moisture meter. You can get them cheap on ebay. Something like $20.00
Davek.. Thanks for the kind comments

 
Aug 9, 2013
29,332
53,098
Helena, Alabama
I just jarred them in a Mason jar. Would it ferment that way too, or should I do something to initiate the fermenting process?

I couldn't tell much from the description of the leaf, but really it should be fine. Jarring it is quite enough. Give it as couple of years, and try it again.
I am curious about how you "ground" them. You can get a small shredder on ebay for about $35.

 

alexj52

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 26, 2018
177
19
Thanks everyone! It seems for now the only thing I can do is to wait for the leaves to mature a bit... In a few years I'll be able to find out if it's my thing, maybe then I can ask for some kind words of assistance.

 
Aug 9, 2013
29,332
53,098
Helena, Alabama
Me too. I just read "ground" and was imagining someone using a mortar and pestle. Ha ha!!

I found one with a 1.3mm cut on ebay, which I like a lot. It doesn't seem to cut the tobacco into threadlike shag. But, I just decided to roll twists for most of my harvest, because I got tired of constantly having to un-gum to shredder. But, I do still shred some.

 

ernieq

Might Stick Around
Aug 9, 2018
62
240
[/quote]Me too. I just read "ground" and was imagining someone using a mortar and pestle. Ha ha!!

I found one with a 1.3mm cut on ebay, which I like a lot. It doesn't seem to cut the tobacco into threadlike shag. But, I just decided to roll twists for most of my harvest, because I got tired of constantly having to un-gum to shredder. But, I do still shred some.

Cosmic, I'm curious what you think pressure during aging does. I've dabbled with raw leaf but my real experience is with commercial blending tobaccos. Would pressing during aging or sweating benefit raw leaf?
E.
 
Aug 9, 2013
29,332
53,098
Helena, Alabama
Besides making the blends more homogenous by pressing the juices of the leaf together, I’m not exactly sure how exactly how pressing benefits the aging process. I just know that flakes, plugs and twists tend to age better. Better, being a subjective word. I also really like aged ribbon cut, also. So, YMMV.
Twists are the easiest to make. It doesn’t require machines or... I have toyed with the idea of making plugs, because I do have a hydraulic press. But, plugs aren’t the easiest thing to get into a jar, and handcutting 20lbs of tobacco plugs by hand doesn’t appeal to me.

 

ernieq

Might Stick Around
Aug 9, 2018
62
240
"plugs aren’t the easiest thing to get into a jar, and handcutting 20lbs of tobacco plugs by hand doesn’t appeal to me"
Tell me about it! I've sliced plugs for customers before on an old "Brown's Mule" cast iron plug slicer and to get a nice even cut is tedious at best.
I mean I realize that Anaerobic fermentation, as in the case of Perique, certainly has a profound effect (In conjunction with whatever cocktail or fruit juices the throw in the Barrel with it), and I know that pressing finished leaf is said to bring out the oils in the leaf...but I gotta say...I've had some mighty tasty Virginia ribbon out of tins I've cracked from 1980's as well as some solidified un-smokeable flake from the same era. I guess it really depends on the leaf.
I love Krumble Kake but I think a lot of the lore is "Perceived Value" I have several 10 year aged jars of one of my blends in KK format as well as several of the same in ribbon and quite honestly I think the ribbon aged better.

E.

 

alexj52

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 26, 2018
177
19
Haha. English isn't my mother tongue, so these things happen sometimes... How do you roll the tobacco? Like one rolls a cigar?

 
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