The tobacco plant is harvested when ripe, when it begins to turn yellow. They are then dried. The drying procedure is known as curing of tobacco leaves. Curing rapidly destroys the chlorophyll present in the leaves, converts the starch into sugar and reduces the moisture content of the leaves and the leaves turn to brown from green.
Flue Curing: Carried out in enclosed building with a heating source. The temperature is regulated and gradually increased until the leaves are completely dry. This takes about a week to complete.
Air Curing: Carried out in open building without a heat source. The tobacco leaves are sheltered from wind and sun while been suspended from cross beams. Takes about 6-8 weeks.
Sun Curing: Carried out under the direct effects of sun. Takes about a month according to weather.
The dried leaves are then processed according to the type of smokeless tobacco product to be manufactured. Various methods are:
1. Loose dried tobacco leaves are sweetened and packaged as such in aluminum lined pouches; or
2. Plug tobacco formed into sheets with a little syrup, usually molasses, which sweetens it and maintains its form. These are cut into individual plugs and wrapped with fine tobacco leaves and are then packaged. Individual have to bite directly from the plug.
3. The tobacco leaves are spunned and rolled into large strands which are twisted into a knot. This is the most common form of chewing tobacco, commonly known as twist tobacco.
4. Various other forms can be manufactured by finely grounding the tobacco leaves or leaving them coarse, addition of various flavoring agents, etc.
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