The difference between tobacco for snus and tobacco for smoking is great. The famous tobacco from Cuba is perfect for cigar making but not interested at all for snus. The tobacco is fermented, which should have given a typical cigar aroma. In the tobacco family Nicotiana there are 67 different tobacco spices. The most common in snus is Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica. What is making the picture even more complex is that there are several thousands of variants of just Nicotiana tabacum. And new once are discovered frequently, it is often that the tobacco farmer discovers that a variant develops to a new unknown variant depending on the methods used when growing and the conditions of his lands. In that way the tobacco is similar to wine. For example a Pinot noir grape that has been grown in Australia gives another wine compared if the grape was grown in USA or South Africa, this depending on the climate, number of sun hours and other factors. It is exactly the same for tobacco. The most tobacco spices require considerable, nutritional lands and warm climate. The way of harvesting differs and for the tobacco used in the snus Kardus all tobacco is cut by hand.
2. CURING (drying)
The process of curing is drying the tobacco. During this step the tobacco matures and the aroma and taste developes. There are mainly four differenct drying methods. For the Kardus snus the tobacco is sun dried (sun curing) and air dried (air curing) and not dried by heating or fire. Then air drying the tobacco the farmer purs the tobacco plants on wooden rack and then placed in a farmhouse. During the drying which takes a few months the tobacco leafs changes in colour from green-yellow to brown. Drying by fire is not used on the Kardus snus when the marking GothiaTek®, Swedish Match own quality standard, under which Kardus is included in does not allow this. Drying by fire results in that the chemical values will be too high and the tobacco will not be suitable for snus.
It is a major different between the different snus tobacco. It is not only the climate and the other weather factors. There are also differences on the plant itself. The tobacco is getting ready from the bottom and up. The leafs closest to the ground is called lugs, they are thinner and has not as extensive flavour as the large tobacco leaves on the middle of the plant. Between the lugs and the large tobacco leaves are the cutters, which are between the lugs and the large tobacco leaves. The tobacco leaves in the top is called tips and are not fully grown I size or character. Grading means sorting tobacco according to different qualities or grades. The first grading to be done, farm grading, is a rough division that the farmer does him/herself. Most often, the farmer grades the leaves only. Raw tobacco dealers do their own grading. He – because of tradition, it is almost always a man – judges the quality of the whisks (bound bundles of tobacco leaves) more carefully using five criteria – body, gum and oil, color, luster, and aroma. Body refers to the leaf’s thickness, feel, and structure. It is a highly subjective judgment based on how the tobacco feels in the hand. Gum and oil refers to the leaf’s wax and oil. This has a lot to do with the current seed type, but also with growing conditions, which are influenced by the weather and soil. Color judgments are based on a brownness scale. Tobacco is usually classed as light brown, medium brown, or dark brown, but there can even be shades of green, yellow, red, or orange. Luster refers to the leaf’s shine. Snus tobacco can be everything from flat to shiny. Certain tobaccos are so shiny that they seem to sparkle. Describing aroma requires a way with words because the dealer uses the same kind of language that is used to judge wine. Some common terms are dried fig, bouquet, hay, jute, grain, and nut. Then it is Swedish Match’s turn. We choose what we want from the large selection offered by the raw tobacco dealer. We also choose the quantities. It may, for example, be a question of choosing a gold nuance in a basically medium-brown grade. The grades we choose and their respective quantities comprise our own grade. The grading for Kardus tobacco is comprehensive and time-consuming. Three crops come from our own fields in Vietnam, Hungary, and Spain. These are small crops. From Hungary, for example, we procure only one carton of tobacco, and the quality check is, therefore, more stringent than that done for ordinary snus. The only crop we buy on the open market comes from India.
The next stop on the road to Kardus is the packaging factory where farmers’ tobacco bales are opened and where we do a through inspection of the grade to be used. Inside the packaging factory, the tobacco is placed on a conveyor belt. The order of the grades on the belt is already determined. The grades are arranged successively so that the flow always represents our own final grade. The next stop in the process is re-dehydration, i.e. the tobacco is dried again so that its storage condition is stable. At this point, the leaf is transformed from a living plant part to a raw tobacco good. Prior to this step, the water content of the tobacco leaves can vary by three to four percent. After this process, the tobacco grade has uniform water content.
Kardus consists of a number of crops, for the same reason as the manufacture of cognac: it is required for the creation of the complex, nuanced flavors that make this snus an outstanding, pleasurable product. For the production of Kardus, we selected from among all harvests in 2004. There were more than 50, and they came from all over the world; but only four were considered for Kardus. Which four they were, and that there were only four, took months to decide. The recipe is our core knowledge. Through the testing of innumerable combinations using objective and subjective criteria, Kardus was born. The objective criteria are nicotine content and chemical qualities. The subjective criteria are taste, flavor, and aroma. The subjective criteria often result in discussions that are very lively, not least because the discussions determine the grade. The four selected crops are the basis of a snus that – according to our tobacco masters – is balanced, flavorful, and mild. Kardus has a smoky, spicy, tobacco taste that is reminiscent of dried fruit, figs, and plums. It has a noticeable sharpness and a balanced salty-sweet taste, with a touch of cacao. The aroma carries hints of raisin, strong wine, vanilla, and hay. Most interesting, but at the same time most difficult to explain, is the smokiness and hints of dried fruit. We neither smoke the tobacco nor add flavoring. This says a lot about the complexity of snus tobacco.
Kardus is cut, as opposed to nearly all Swedish snus, which is ground. Kardus’s taste, therefore, is closer to that of pure tobacco, especially that which has not been flavored. This has to do with cut surfaces and oxidation. Ground versus cut snus has different characteristics similar to pressed versus chopped garlic. The cut structure conveys flavor nuances and highlights that ground snus can never achieve. Tobacco is cut in one of mainly three ways: fine cut, cross cut, and long cut. Kardus is long cut, which provides a structure that is reminiscent of the long threads of pipe tobacco. This type of cut holds together well in the mouth, despite what one would think. Novice snus users can find it difficult to fit snus of this cut in the mouth comfortably. But by the second try, they have learned. Removing the snus is not a problem either.
After cutting, the tobacco goes directly into the snus mixer. Ordinary salt, which acts as a preservative and flavor enhancer, is added. Snus without salt easily acquires a flat taste. No flavoring, however, is added to Kardus. We want the taste to be as original as possible, i.e. pure tobacco taste. Flavoring would also destroy the hard work behind the choice of grade. By adding flavor, the effort to find and compare various tastes, and to find new tastes through mixing, would be in vain. The tobacco is then sweated. Raw tobacco is bitter and does not taste especially good. After a thorough sweating, it is both milder and tastier. Sweating also pasteurizes the tobacco since it still contains bacteria. Now, for the first time, the tobacco is called snus. It is now time to evaluate the aroma. Evaluating finished snus, for example a can of General, can be done by most people. But Kardus is a very special snus. Only a handful of people, with over 100 years of collective snus manufacturing experience, from Swedish Match’s snus factory in Göteborg have the right nose. They look for aromas that in some way deviate from our expectations. No machine in the world can evaluate aroma. The snus is then inspected and put in a large cooler to mature for a week. After storage, the aroma evaluated again to be sure that nothing unexpected happened during refrigeration. Even consistency, which is important for Kardus, is checked.
Kardus is hand-packed, which is extremely unusual. But in this case, it involves very small volumes. This year, only 4,000 packages of Kardus will see the light of day. After a certain amount is placed in the package, the tobacco is pressed. The tobacco cannot be too loose because too much air causes the snus to age faster. But it cannot be too tight either because cut snus needs air. Kardus’s shelf life is at least the same as that of ordinary snus. Provided that the conditions are right, a certain amount of aging can actually heighten its flavor. In anticipation of delivery, Kardus is stored in the factory’s cooler. The temperature is about 4° C. Only one person is responsible for transporting Kardus, under perfect conditions in a specially-designed portable cooler, from Göteborg to tobacconists and gourmet restaurants. On site at the tobacconist or restaurant, this person is responsible for making sure that Kardus is immediately refrigerated. Swedish Match must approve the refrigeration capabilities of everyone who orders Kardus.
...and finally the Kardus snus is ready.
(From Swedish Match article "Åtta steg till världens bästa snus", Press relese 2005-11-29)