Day 520 – USA (Florida): More smoke in Tampa

NOTE: In regards to the following journal entry, please be reminded that cigars are addictive, can cause cancer, and are just as dangerous to your health as cigarettes, if not more dangerous. I do not condone habitual, frequent use of cigars; please be aware of the dangers before making any decisions. (REF: American Cancer Society article, National Cancer Institute Q&A about Cigars).

Well, I thought I would never say this, but I had a full cigar today, and it was delicious.

From left Rick, Rob, Eric, smoking cigars in Tampa, Florida, USA

Along with Rick and Eric, we all enjoyed the main street of the historic Ybor district in Tampa in the traditional style – smoking cigars at an outdoor cigar bar. Tampa has always been famous for it’s Cuban influence, and this certainly extends to the cigar tradition in the city. Now of course, you can get any cigar you like, so long as it’s not Cuban – the US still enforces it’s very strict trade embargo with Cuba.

The Ybor main street was bustling with scantily clad young women throwing inviting promises of a ‘good time’, young – and old – men along with more just as scantily clad women lining up at the doors of busy clubs, eager to join the throng of seething bodies inside. Hispanic, African American, European, Asian, all number of races wandered the pavements in search of Saturday night action. Boy racers rolled by in their shiny pimped out rides, blaring tunes from massive car speakers.

Rick recommended to me a Nicaraguan Java cigar. I have never smoked anything in my life (Editorial note: My cousin Tim reminds me of our escapades smoking dried straw together when we were about 15 or 16 years old; so I have smoked something!), so it was a completely new experience for me; I was certainly apprehensive at first.

The outer leaves were a deep brown, the inner leaves rolled tightly, resembling a cross section of a chocolate wafer. Smelling the end of the unlit cigar, the first thing I noticed about the cigar was that it smelt to me like chocolate. It smelled sweet, and not at all like the stale tobacco smell I imagined.

We sat out on the sidewalk chairs and tables to watch people mill by. Rick lit the cigar for me, and the first thing I tasted when I put between my lips was a sugar taste from the outside of the cigar. Apparently, the tobacco leaves are soaked in a sweet cocoa and espresso bean concoction before being rolled. Drawing the smoke into my mouth, it had none of the offensive, biting taste of any other smoke I have had in my mouth. Either that of second hand smoke or smoke from a fire. Smoke from a cigar is never inhaled into the lungs, so no coughing ensued.

The cigars last a good 30 minutes, so we smoked slowly, chatting for the duration of the long rolls. I had no idea how I would handle the experience, however I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the cigar, and relished the relaxing ambiance of the bustling cobbled Ybor main street. At about US$7 a cigar, it’s not a cheap thing. But certainly something that could be enjoyed on that odd occasion when great company, suitable location, and the right timing collide to make for a very pleasant evening.

Java cigar in Tampa, Florida, USA

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