Keeping your tobacco in good condition is crucial to guarantee you enjoy the best possible smoking experience.
LIke any crop product, tobacco leaf, no matter how it has been processed, can be subject to degradation over time through dehydration, bacterial action or even fungal growth. In the humid climate some parts of India have, warmth and moisture can also cause problems. In former times the typical pipe smoker (and some today) would smoke one blend of tobacco every day, picking up new tins or packets regularly to replace the one just smoked. If you smoke like this you probably don't need to think too much about storage. Assuming that you finish a tin with a week or two there's little risk of any real problem. Packets, once opened should be moved to an airtight container as they will dehydrate fairly quickly.
SInce most pipe smokers today like to keep a stock or various tobaccos, covering different tastes and styles, it is essential that the smoker properly stores their wares. For our members in India, proper storage is even more important than those in temperate climates, given the typically high humidity and temperatures. The good news is this easily achieved at very modest cost ...
Tins that the tobacco is supplied in can be adequate, depending upon the tobacco , the external environment, and of course on the design of the tin. The round tins that many manufacturers use, with a screw top are preferable for storage to the rectangular tins with a pressed closure as they generally offer a much better seal. Round screw-top tins will generally provide a good enough seal for a few weeks of storage but beyond that it would be wise to transfer the tobacco to a proper airtight container.
Glass or ceramic jars are the best option, for example those designed for food storage or the 'mason jar' design. Ensure that the jar has a reliable airtight seal as this is the most important aspect. Some pipe smokers prefer to use ceramic, opaque, containers rather than glass as these also protect the tobacco from light. If you are using glass, make sure you keep it in a cupboard or at least a well shaded area - certainly not in direct sunlight. It also wise to buy containers of an appropriate size for the tobacco you are storing. A large jar with a small amount of tobacco will contain more air than tobacco so choose according to you needs. Remember to label your jars with the name of the blend and perhaps with the date if you intend to store it long term.
Plastic food storage containers should be avoided as some of these these can impart synthetic tastes and smells to the tobacco. Of course there are various qualities and types of plastic container available but given the ease of sourcing good class or ceramic containers it is wise to opt for these as described above.
Tobacco pouches should not be used for storage beyond your immediate needs. Even the high quality versions marketed by companies like Dunhill (White Spot) do not offer a 100% airtight seal, and your tobacco will dry out relatively quickly. Such pouches are excellent for taking tobacco out with you for day trips but we strongly advise against leaving tobacco in them for more than a day or two, particularly in warm conditions. In humid climes tobacco won't dry just so quickly but it may be more subject to bacterial or fungal degradation if left too long in an open environment.
Note that there is no problem with keeping bought tobacco in unopened tins for long periods, indeed many pipe smokers will deliberately do this to store tobacco for some years. Almost all manufacturers provide their tobacco in a vacuum sealed container, so until you open the tin, you can leave it as it is. This brings us to the topic of cellaring ...
Cellaring is the practice of storing tobacco long term for one or several of the following reasons:
We hope you're finding our beginner advice helpful. Jump across to our Member's Gallery to see some of the faces behind the information ...
Whether you intend to build up a significant stock of tobacco through bulk purchasing, or you maintain a modest selection of tobaccos so that you can sample different flavours to suit your mood, you do need to look after your tobacco. With some low cost airtight jars, you'll be guaranteed a great taste every time.
To read more about cellaring, take a look at the excellent article our Pipe Club of India member Shubhrajit Chatterjee has posted to his Tobacco, Pipes and Cigars blog.