The discussions surrounding Medio Tiempo seem to have taken a cynical turn over the last 6-12 months. Rather than cheerfully announcing a limited-edition cigar featuring Medio Tiempo like in previous years, cigar enthusiasts have recently started to question the rarity, novelty, and ultimately the value of this leaf across social media.
Since several of my favorite cigars happen to feature Medio Tiempo, I started asking some of our recent interviewees their opinion to the question that this title poses. Is Medio Tiempo all hype, or a useful priming? I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, depending of the hands that craft both the blend and the press release.
Below are the opinions of Jon Huber, Robert Caldwell, Klaas Kelner, Steve Saka, and Max Fernandez to give us more food for thought.
Jon Huber, Crowned Heads:
“My thoughts on ‘medio tiempo’ is what the hell is it?! Every now and then, terms like these get tossed around in our business—most often times by brand owners that don’t know anything except for, ‘hey this sounds like a good catch term that could sell some cigars…’
I’m old school in that I prefer to stick to the basics. After 20+ years of doing this, I feel like I know what tobaccos and countries of origin I like to work with, and the reality is that we (brand owners) all pull pretty much from the same sources.
So, while some may want to keep a shroud of mystery constantly by throwing around words like this, the reality is that this is not rocket science. Maybe ‘medio tiempo’ is a game-changer? I don’t know.”
Robert Caldwell, Caldwell Cigar Co:
"I think that a lot of things become trendy and trendy sells and sales become hype. There are a lot of band waggoneers in our game. That doesn’t mean that the tobacco isn't good."
Klaas Kelner, Davidoff Brand Ambassador:
"In my opinion, Medio Tiempo is mostly hype. As farmers for Davidoff, my family grows tobacco and divides the plant into four main foliar levels (Bottom to Top: Volado, Seco, Visus, and Ligero). We eliminate the Libre de Pie in the bottom and the Picadura on the top.
Libre de Pie, being too close the ground, tends to be too thin and its quality is rarely good enough for a premium cigar. Conversely, on the other extreme the Picadura on top will be a much smaller, thicker leaf with little commercial use.
Medio Tiempo is a tobacco harvested from the very top of the plant, including the Corona and Picadura. It is true that a leaf on top of the plant will be stronger and add intense flavors and aromas to the cigar, but Davidoff doesn’t really use it for the same reasons."
Steve Saka, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust:
"'Medio Tiempo' is not something new, although this term was vaulted into the spotlight in 2010 when Habanos S.A. debuted their use in their much heralded Cohiba Behike line extension.
This is not some magical tobacco, but rather a pair of small leaves that sprout occasionally at the very top of the stalk, primarily on sun grown Habana seed tobaccos above the typical corona / ligero primings. Their name is derived from these leaves often requiring “extra half as long timewise” to leaf out on the stalk.
These small leaves are notoriously potent and can provide an extra bit of kick within a blend. We have always had a home for these tobaccos, for example Joya de Nicaragua has been using these as part of their Antano 1970 blend since its inception in 1999, but they have always called it “Ligeron” and were not as sophisticated as marketers as their Cuban counterparts.
I think because most Cuban cigars tend to be mild to medium in body, their use in Cohiba made for a bigger splash and, of course, Habanos did the utmost to showcase its use to promote Behike. Which in turn leads to others copying in form for their own marketing.
Personally, I look at it like I do any other ingredient that when used correctly can provide a satisfying note in a liga. That being said, I think some use it as a crutch and more for marketing purposes than a benefit to the cigar itself."
Max Fernandez, Aganorsa Leaf:
"Medio tiempo is a leaf that does not always work in every blend. It is very rare because we only get a few dozen bales in the thousands of bales of tobacco we produce at Aganorsa Leaf. It is selected from among the pilones of ligero and the top primings of the plant.
It has a marked crocodile-like skin; thick texture with lots of oils on the leaf. The medio tiempo we use at Aganorsa Leaf is Medio Tiempo Criollo ’98. But we know –and the people who blend with us know– that it expresses itself differently that a normal ligero from Esteli.
Whereas with a ligero you find strength and boldness, and in our ligero Criollo ’98 you find a mix of spices and sweetness, a medio tiempo leaf is very different. All of the thickness and oil retention on the leaf transmits to an extra layer of body, richness, chewiness, and depth.
My Dad says it adds weight and a pleasing, balanced complexity to a blend that he calls aplomb. It’s one of the many keys we use to make blends that are multidimensional. Chewiness is a another word that Kyle Gellis uses for it."
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