Robaina's plantation

Thursday 24 January 2013

H.Upmann cigar factory (Havana)

                 The H.Upmann factory is considered by many to be one of the best cigar factories in Cuba, a few would even say the very best.
                  The H.Upmann brand is one of the oldest, having been created by a German banker, Herman Upmann, when he opened a branch of his bank in Havana in 1840 and decided to invest in a cigar factory. That factory was built in 1844 on Amistad street no.407-409 and remained so until November 2003 when it moved to it's present address on the corner of 23rd and 14 streets in what used to be the old Partagas cigarette factory. The name of the factory has changed as well, it has been renamed the Jose Marti factory since 1961. When they first opened they started out with 80 workers, there have been times when they've had 1000 workers at one time through the years.
                   It's been over a year now that the Upmann factory has been operating out of the Romeo Y Julieta factory in Centro Habana while it's been under renovation. It seems that not too long after they moved into the new place, about 10 years, they've had terrible floods from water coming in through the roof. Sadly, I never got to see the old place on Amistad but I've had the fortune of visiting the new location several times before the renovations and the current one at RyJ. I remember seeing some of the same faces I saw years ago on previous visits. One thing hasn't changed, the quality of the cigars coming out of this factory are still some of the best, especially their Piramides. The Upmann factory is know to be the best for rolling the Piramide Vitola and that's why it's the only factory other that El Laguito that's been given the task to roll the Cohiba Piramide Extra. Of course there were plenty of Montecristo 520s being rolled, Upmann was the original Montecristo factory. The head of Quality Control, who gave me my tour this past November, was quite proud of the quality of the smokes leaving the factory and made sure to let me know several times. She went through the various departments and the several spots where a quality control check was done. I can understand now why Cuban cigars have been much better than the ones rolled years ago, especially from the 90's. At least I can say that about the cigars coming out of the H.Upmann factory.
                    Below are two sets of pictures and I've indicated the split. The ones above were taken in the new factory before the renovations and the ones below are actually in the Romeo y Julieta factory but it's the Upmann workers that are there in the fotos.

23rd and 14 street

adding moisture to the leaf

portioning out the rollers bundles

removing the center vein and organizing the leaf


the main rolling room

quality control

taking the boxes away to the warehouse

Romeo y Julieta cigar factory

Romeo y Julieta factory or the temporary H.Upmann factory 

main rollers room

a smaller rolling room

quality control

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Punch Royal Edicion Regional Benelux 2009 (cigar review)

                 This was one from a bunch of cigars that were sent to me about a year ago from a good friend in Belgium. I still hadn't had the opportunity to try this one but found the time during the holidays.
                  They named this cigar the Punch Royal. I love this size, it's a Gordito or Robusto Extra, 50 x 141 (5.6"). It's been made for the Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands market. 2,600 numbered boxes of 25 cigars were made and released in 2009.
                   This was an absolutely wonderful looking cigar with a well constructed cap. It was firm to the touch and just slightly bumpy with a veinless, smooth, shiny, cafe latte coloured wrapper. The pre-light draw feels good and gives me a light cedar taste. On the very first draw I got the floral flavours I don't like but after a few more hits it made way for earthy manure with a hint of wood....I love it. The burn was a bit off so I touched it up with my torch. I'm at halfway through the first quarter and the taste is very earthy, burning even and a good solid medium body or maybe a touch stronger. I'm not yet at the end of the first quarter and the flavours turn right around, I begin to taste caramel. The burn is jagged, it's the only word I can think of to use. I flicked the ash at the first quarter and I begin to pick up touches of coffee notes.
                  Getting past the first quarter, the burn is still off and the earthy tone begins to come back. The flavours remain pretty consistent through the second quarter and the ash is flaky as I near the halfway mark.
                  Just past the half and the cigar tastes a little bitter but it smooths out shortly after that returning to it's earthy flavour. The burn is still off through this quarter and once again the flavours remain consistent. As I reached the last quarter the bitterness came back but once again it smoothed itself out.
                   During the last quarter it picked up a bit of strength but otherwise the flavours didn't change. I smoked this one down to the end.
                    In conclusion...a decent cigar even though the flavour doesn't change (I like earth and wood anyway) throughout most of the smoke. There was that big curve it took at about the first quarter mark which was interesting. It makes me think this cigar needs a little more time to settle down. I have another one which I will save for some time down road so I can compare.

Monday 21 January 2013

PP's Teppanyaki (Japanese style restaurant) Havana (My Review)

                 This is one of the many restaurants that have been opening up in Havana lately. With the laws relaxing and making it easier to open a restaurant, many have taken the leap and given this endeavour a try. This one in particular is a Japanese style restaurant. I've only been to one other Japanese or Sushi restaurant in Havana but that was several years ago and in the middle of nowhere in the outskirts of the city. This spot is in the heart of the Vedado District with many other restaurants within walking distance.
                 The term Teppanyaki means the style of Japanese cuisine which uses the 'Teppan', iron plate, to cook food. This restaurant also offers a decent variety of Sushi dishes. The owner of the restaurant had spent a few years in Japan as a Naval Mechanical Engineer. During the 70's and 80's he would spend a few months of the year there and would come to Cuba to visit. He has since retired as an Engineer and lives in Havana, now he goes to Japan for visits. He always had this dream to open a restaurant when he finally returned to Cuba and now at 65 years of age, with his right hand man Rael at his side, his dream has come true. His thought was to bring something different to Havana with this Teppanyaki style of cuisine and I don't know of any other place in the city doing this kind of food. As always, I was willing to give a new place a try.
                  Our personal cook was 22 years young. He had 2 years experience in the kitchen having worked at the new Indian restaurant 'Bollywood' previously. Alejandro Quintana was his name and he was a nice young man. The gentleman serving us and doing all the talking was Rael Tejeiro, the owner's nephew, right hand man and partner. The service was pleasant and any questions that were asked were answered promptly and properly. There was no wine list and I hate that but we were able to zero in on a $25 dry Rose wine that was pretty good. The menu wasn't super large but covered most bases or at least enough to make it interesting. I ordered the California Roll (tuna and cucumber) and it was actually pretty good, served with the customary soya and wasabi on the side. My guest ordered the Teppanyaki No.1 which included a miso soup, not bad, Sushi Roll, I enjoyed it, garlic fried rice, yummy, 200 grams of filet mignon from Uruguay which was very very good. The vegetables they served with the meat were minimal, I didn't like that. I want a lot of vegetables and preferably a variety with my main course. My guest loved everything but had never been to a Japanese restaurant before so had no reference. I decided that after everything I had, I wanted to order something else. I ordered the Gyouzas a la Plancha which are something like a Pork Ravioli done on the hot plate. I would order them again but for the middle of the table to share with other people. For dessert my guest had the highly recommended Crema Catalana, a Spanish custard dessert similar to a French Creme Brulee. Next time I'll order one too, it was good.
                     Although I can't find the bill, everything before gratuity came out to about 65cuc, approximately $70. That's pretty expensive for Cuba but not bad in relation to what we ate and drank. The decor wasn't anything special. This was an apartment in a building and not very much was done to it in the way of decor. It did have a fairly large balcony that was much larger than the indoor part of the restaurant. You better know where you're going if you come here (have an address) because you won't find any big signage outside. Once you're actually standing in front of the door to the (apartment) entrance of the restaurant on the second floor, you can't miss it, the door is a big sign. Not too many people were here on this night but the restaurant had only been open a couple of months and wouldn't be the easiest place to find. It's a little pricey for the Cuban with a few bucks in his pocket but not too expensive for a tourist who's willing to spend a couple of extra dollars on a good meal. I would and will come back.

PP's Teppanyaki
Calle 21 e/L y M  no.104 apt. 4
Vedado, Havana
tel. 07-836-2530
cell 05-346-5200
Mon.-Thurs. 6-11pm
Fri.-Sun.  1pm-12midnight

Entrance to the Apartment-Restaurant

California Roll

Assorted Roll

Miso Soup

Our Filet Mignon

Gyouzas a la Plancha

Alejandro and Rael