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Before we get into this discussion, we need to a little background. Each of these varietal families (Virginia, Burley, Oriental) is a direct descendant of Nicotiana tabacum. Through genetics these distinct types have been developed along with numerous hybrids of each variety. Also, just like cigar tobacco, the microclimate where the tobacco is grown, the trace elements in the soil, and the specific way the tobacco is processed have a great affect on how the tobacco tastes when smoked. Virginia tobaccos are the most widely grown varietal family in the world, growing in Maryland through the Carolinas and other states, in Canada, from Central America to Brazil, several African countries, in Europe and Asia; and is a base tobacco in many pipe tobacco blends. While most of the Virginia grown in the world is used for cigarettes, higher grade varietals and heavier leaves are used for producing pipe tobaccos. Cavendish is more a process of curing and a method of cutting tobacco than a type of it. The processing and the cut are used to bring out the natural sweet taste in the tobacco. Cavendish can be produced out of any tobacco type but is usually one of, or a blend of Kentucky, Virginia, and Burley and is most commonly used for pipe tobacco and cigars.
After their respective curing process, (Burley: air-cured, Virginia: flue-cured), Cavendish tobaccos are steamed, usually with sugars or flavoring in the water, in order to infuse the tobacco with moisture and a subtle sweetness. After steaming, the tobacco is stored under pressure (pressed) for an additional curing/fermentation period. Pressing can last from a few days to several weeks and flavorings and/or casing can be added at any stage throughout the process. The color and flavor of the Cavendish will vary between natural and black, depending on what flavoring agent is used. Originally this process produced a very dark tobacco without a great deal of flavor but more recently Cavendish tobacco has been produced with much more flavor but very little of the original tobacco flavor. To achieve this complete change in taste the tobacco leaves are soaked in a mixture of sugar and whatever the end taste is to be. There are several colors, including the well-known Black Cavendish, numerous blends, and a wide range of flavors. Modern blends include flavors and ingredients such as cherry, chocolate, coconut, rum, strawberry, vanilla, walnut, and bourbon. Cavendish tobacco originated in the late 16th century, when Sir Thomas Cavendish commanded a ship in Sir Richard Grenville's expedition to Virginia in 1585, and discovered that by dipping tobacco leaves in sugar it produced a milder and more mellow smoke.