Im­ported cigars are a fash­ion­able prod­uct now.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

show­case a va­ri­ety of popular hand­made Cuban brands. Th­ese in­clude Co­hiba, Romeoy Juli­eta, Mon­te­cristo, Bo­li­var and Parta­gas.

Prices range from 51 yuan ($8.22) for a Guan­tanam­era roll to about 410 yuan for a pre­mium Co­hiba smoke. In­di­vid­ual cigars can be pur­chased for im­me­di­ate con­sump­tion in the lounge or a whole box can be bought to be kept in the bar´s hu­mi­dor for fu­ture vis­its.

Casa del Ha­bano also sells a wide range of para­pher­na­lia for afi­ciona­dos, in­clud­ing ash­trays, cut­ters and hu­mi­dors.

The lounge of­fers a haven for those who en­joy a quiet time in a so­phis­ti­cated en­vi­ron­ment of leather so­fas and dark wood fur­ni­ture.

“Im­ported cigars are a fash­ion­able prod­uct now,” said Mitchell Jiang, manager of Casa delHa­bano. “Some of our clients come with friends to en­joy a good time, while oth­ers pre­fer to buy cigars as a present.”

Yet ac­cord­ing to young busi­ness­man Chen, the coun­try is wit­ness­ing a rapid change in con­sumer at­ti­tudes.

“Be­fore, peo­ple would smoke cigars be­cause they liked the taste and un­der­stood the cul­ture,” he said. “But now, a lot of cigarsmok­ers just want to show off. They want to show the brand and how much they paid for it. It is just a sta­tus sym­bol for them.

“In my case, I do not buy cigars be­cause of the logo. I buy them for the tobacco,” Chen added.

Although China’s most popular cigar bars, such as the Casa del Ha­bano and the Cigar Am­bas­sador, are con­cen­trated in the cities of Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou, there are also other ar­eas in China in­ter­ested in set­ting “Cuban clubs”.

Ha­banos SA points out that a larger num­ber of cigars could be ex­ported to China in or­der to meet the ris­ing de­mand. But stor­age re­quire­ments limit the num­ber that can be sold in the coun­try.

“Peo­ple from very re­mote prov­inces are con­tact­ing us be­cause they are in­ter­ested in open­ing cigar bars in their home­towns,” Cuban–born OmarLeon Sanchez, chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Ha­banos in Bei­jing, said. “But the prob­lem is that those places might not have cli­mate-con­trolled fa­cil­i­ties (hu­mi­dors).”

Un­like cig­a­rettes, cigars need to be stored at around 18 de­grees Cel­sius and 70 per­cent hu­mid­ity con­di­tions, which can be ex­pen­sive for small re­tail­ers. But cigar bars usu­ally charge a membership fee to its cus­tomers,

up

their own which partly cov­ers stor­age costs.

For ex­am­ple, the Cigar Am­bas­sador Club of­fers two types of life­time membership. The cheap­est one is 30,000 yuan on a voucher card, while the most ex­pen­sive op­tion climbs to 50,000 yuan.

Both membership deals in­clude ex­clu­sive ac­cess to tast­ing events and other so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties di­rected at afi­ciona­dos, and a 10 per­cent dis­count on all the prod­ucts that are fran­chised in the coun­try.

The dif­fi­culty in keep­ing cigars is the main rea­son why Sanchez sees more growth prospects for spe­cial­ized lounges than shops in China.

“What the mar­ket needs right now is more cigar lounges, a place where peo­ple can en­joy a good Ha­bano in the right en­vi­ron­ment,” he said. Zhang Yi­tao con­trib­uted to this story.

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