Buying Cigars In Cuba #1
Having just returned from Cuba on a business trip, I offer the following to those who may be interested in my experiences in buying cigars in Cuba.
I had a free weekend to spend in Havana, and a very specific list of cigars I wished to purchase. Here are some things that I learned:
• Some of the most sought-after shapes – figurados such as torpedoes and belicosos – are difficult to locate. The Montecristo “A”. was also nowhere to be found (but see below).
• Some of the sales outlets in Havana recommended on the web were disappointing. The much-lauded cigar shop at the Melia Cohiba Hotel, for example, is small and has a extremely limited selection, as does the Museo del Tabaco store in Havana Vieja. The latter had indifferent service. Unfortunately, the highly-recommended cigar bar at the Melia Cohiba was closed when I was there Saturday morning (it opens at 2pm).
• For last-minute cigar buying, the store in the new Havana airport terminal has a decent selection and a nice humidor. They were out of Montecristos, though.
• There is a refurbished, art-deco style, very well-stocked Casa del Habano on the corner of 5th Avenue and 16th Street in the Marina district, a residential area in Havana. Very friendly, knowledgable service, and you can wander about the large walk-in humidor.
• The store at the Partagas factory in Centro Havana sells a number of different single cigars as well as boxes, and has a room where you can sit and relax in a comfortable atmosphere, have an expresso or other drink (the Cubita brand coffee is fantastic) and chat with fellow Habano lovers. I tried a Cuaba and talked with a Cuban couple. She had perfect New Jersey English; he is a good friend of the manager of the Casa del Habano in São Paulo – the only such establishment in Brazil (180 million people and one store). Asked me to say hello when I go there. I will.
• Prices among state stores are quite uniform; the difference between them is in the quantity and variety of their stock.
• It is good to have a list of what you are looking for. Besides differentiating you from the casual buyer for the salesperson, a list helps to keep you focused so you won’t slip into a “kid in the candy store” mode.