MIAMI (CBSMiami0 – While many are made by machines today, cigar lovers know the best ones are still rolled by hand. But it’s an art form that takes years to perfect and I got a crash course by a master.

Every morning, Mario Alra of the Little Cigar Factory in Little Havana walks into work and starts his day with a Cuban Espresso which he makes in the shop. Together, we do the same and it’s off to work for me as a cigar roller.

The price of a cigar is directly linked to two things; the quality of the leaves and the roller who makes the cigar.

My teacher Eric is a master cigar roller at the shop. He’s been doing it for more than 20 years and so has many generations in his family before him. He explained that technique is everything, because if they’re not rolled right, the cigar won’t burn evenly.

We started with stacks of high quality leaves from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. He told me that I have to quickly look for the best parts of the leaf.

“How can you tell what’s the best part,” I asked.

He explained that when the leaf dries, the center (where it branches out) turns hard, so that part needs to be removed. The best leaves are used as the outer layer to wrap everything in. The edges are trimmed and they’re put in a mold to help hold the shape.

After more drying, a cap is put on the ends and the excess trimmed off.

After several demonstrations, I try my hand it. But in a matter of ten seconds, I made three mistakes and needed another demonstration.

After a few more tries, I finally am able to roll a few cigars worthy of being sold in the store.

Eventually we took a smoke break to enjoy the hard work, but I quickly learned another important lesson about cigars – you puff on it and don’t inhale the smoke.

For more information on the Little Havana Cigar Factory visit their website at

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