All types of tobacco, be that cigarettes, snuff, cigars or pipe tobacco, all come from the tobacco plant’s leaves. This plant was completely unknown in Europe until Christopher Columbus came to the Americas. However, on these continents, the plant had been used ceremonially and medicinally since time began. Some even suggest it was smoked recreationally, although little evidence of that is present.
The Tobacco Plant Moves to the World
Once Columbus brought the plant back with him to Europe, it slowly started to take hold there. The trade itself was dominated by the Portuguese and Spaniards for many years. However, as people started to colonize North America, things changed again. In 1612, John Rolfe opened the first tobacco plantation in Jamestown, Virginia. The Englishman is perhaps best known for his marriage to the Indian princess Pocahontas.
His crops heralded a new age for tobacco, as it was a new crop type. He had used seeds of the Nicotiana Tabacum, a tobacco plant found natively in Brazil. It is believed that he managed to find the seeds in Trinidad, where they had landed through the trade routes.
This tobacco type was much milder than the strong, harsh tobacco that was smoked by early settlers and natives of the Americas. And once this took hold in Europe, the export market grew massively. As a result, Jamestown became a flourishing town with a booming economy. To this day, the plant introduced to the world by Rolfe is still the same as the one we used today. Only very few countries still grow the more strongly flavored species.
About the Tobacco Plant and its Industry
A standard tobacco plant is between 4 and 6 feet in height. It has very large leaves, each leaf being about three feet long and around a foot and a half wide. The leaves have pointed tips and they are covered in a huge amount of soft, long hair. These hairs contain gummy juice. The tobacco plant also flowers, and its flowers are a very light pink or rose color.
Some 66 countries around the world now grow tobacco as part of their economy. The biggest producer of the plant is the United States, which is also the first country in which it was grown. However, the way the plant is grown differs from one plantation to the other. This is because there are many varieties in the plant itself, as well as many varieties in growing conditions, including soil and weather patterns.
The tobacco plant is not an easy plant to grow, however. A lot of care is required in order for it to survive. They are incredibly sensitive to the influences of climate and to the quality of the soil in which they grow. Hence, the way the plants are looked after will determine to a great extent how good the tobacco itself will taste once produced. Some people have become experts in smoking tobacco, usually through a pipe, and determining where the plant came from.