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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. Latakia is a specially prepared tobacco originally produced in Syria and named after the port city of Latakia. Now the tobacco is mainly produced in Cyprus. It is probably the most well known spice tobacco. After the leaves are harvested and dried, they are hung in tightly closed barns and smoke-cured. Small smoldering fires of oak, pine, and fragrant herbs fill the barn with smoke, and covering the leaves with smoke particles, which gives it an intense smokey, peppery taste and smell. The strength is mild, but the powerful aroma often causes smokers to confuse the strength of taste with the strength of the tobacco, it's used as a "condiment", especially in English and some American Classic blends.
Latakia is an Oriental tobacco, which is sun-cured in the normal way and then fire-cured. The smoke produced by these fires coats the tobacco and infuses its own flavor. Latakia has a naturally "Smokey" quality yet will vary in flavor aroma depending on where it is from, (Syria, Cyprus, & Greece), and what wood and herbs were used to fuel the smoke. The length of curing will influence the flavor aroma strength of the tobacco, but the nicotine and sugar levels will remain relatively low. Like so many other tobacco discoveries, Latakia was unintentionally discovered. During the 1800s in Syria, a bumper crop of tobacco was left in the rafters of a house for many months and exposed to household fires and smoke. The result of this accident was revolutionary in that it gave birth to a new category of pipe tobaccos and flavor aroma possibilities.