El Titan de Bronze: the quaintest mom-and-pop shop I found on my tobacco journey, exudes an atmosphere of authenticity unmatched. On the counter sits a cigar-filled jar reading, “Smuggled Cuban cigars; stolen from Castro’s private stash.” Those stogies sell for only a buck.
But the real treasure in this shop is watching the artwork unfold. Skilled cigar rollers (all of whom hail from Cuba) tube tobacco leaves, slice the wrappers, and roll the cigars with a few pinches of vegetable-based adhesive. Co-owner Sandy Cobas says that each roller makes about 100 to 125 cigars everyday, and they stick to making only one kind of cigar. For example, Ernesto Pérez, 29, only makes Churchill cigars to master the art form perfectly.
“In Cuba, they make them the same way,” Cobas said. Her father, Carlos Cobas, opened the Little Havana factory in 1995. She recognizes that the cigar business is stereotypically regarded as a man’s domain. This is, however, the smoky world she grew up in, and the culture she loves. Stacks of cedar cigar holders line the floor of the store. The cedar maintains the cigars’ rich, nutty flavors. “Like oak is to wine, cedar is to cigars,” she explains.
The factory makes four different cigars: Titan de Bronze Gold, Titan Grand Reserve Maduro, Titan Grand Reserve Cameroon, and the Titan Redemption Sun Grown Habano. The tobacco is shipped in from various countries like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Brazil. Individual cigars are very reasonable – only about $4 to $7, and come in boxes of 20 or 25. The enclosed humidifiers keep the tobacco fresh at about 70 degrees. The shop sells small, personal humidors ranging from $39.99 to $115.99.
The factory gets a lot of tourists customers and ships a lot of boxes to out-of-state aficionados. A group of young Belgium tourists snaps photos and admires the lived-in charm of the shop. “Hey, look at me,” one of the young men holding a cigar shouts to his friends. “I’m Tony Montana. Don’t F— with me!”