Turkey, with luxurious turquoise water, white limestone coastlines, and the lush clay soils of the Mediterranean temperate climate zone, grows the humble tobacco crop. Tobacco is grown along the Aegean coast near Izmir and Ephesus, and along the Black Sea coast between Sinop and Samsun. Turkish tobacco, or Oriental tobacco, is a highly aromatic, small-leafed variety of tobacco which is sun-cured. Turkish tobacco plants usually have a greater number and smaller size leaves. These differences can be attributed to climate, soil, cultivation and treatment methods. Turkish tobacco has a much milder flavor and contains less nicotine and fewer carcinogens than other varieties.
Tobacco first came into Turkey in (1601-1605) with English, Venetian, and Spanish sailors. The first tobacco cultivation started in Macedonia, Yenice and Kircali. Until 1633 the cultivation, import and smoking of tobacco was not banned but only the import was taxed. One of the best agricultural areas in the region, Turkey is a key player in the cultivation and breeding of Tobacco.
Ever since the Ottoman empire got ahold of the sand grain seeds, the climate, growing medium, and fertilizing techniques used, have shaped and distinguished oriental tobacco. Becoming one the smoothest and widespread cultivars in Asia and Europe! Back in the day, the majority of artisan tobacco smokers were in France, and would sail across the Mediterranean sea to get their hands on kilos of this sweet, mild, primed and sun cured fresh tobacco. While on the way back to France, the merchants would stop along the coastlines of Northern Africa, trading and bargaining with Arab merchants and other ethnic groups. Tobacco was often a bargaining chip in the deals. Even a nice smoke after a deal was a customary show of courtesy and fraternity.
The lovely Aegean Region is located in the west part of the country: bounded by Aegean Sea on the west; Marmara Region on the north; Mediterranean Region on the south & southwest; and the Central Anatolia Region on the east.
This region’s climatic and soil conditions are exceptional for oriental tobacco farming. Already this region has the largest tobacco production area in Turkey. Aegean tobacco is mostly known as Izmir in global markets. In this region, the most outstanding issue is obtaining uniform and standard tobacco. There are no other strains grown in the Aegean Region, just Izmir and its sub-strains.
In some conditions like over irrigation and fertilization, leaf length may be bigger. Although their yield is high, quality is low. These tobaccos have harsh smoke with a neutral taste.
These tobaccos are planted after rainy winters and they mature with hot and dry weather. Hot and dry climate is necessary for limiting the growth and drying. In Turkey these climate specifications are available in the Aegean region. Also the best oriental tobaccos are grown in this region. Generally irrigation is not possible so water needs are satisfied only with rain.
Izmir tobacco is adapted to Aegean region’s climate. This region has rainy winters, medium rainy springs and hot and dry summers.
The best aromatic flavored Izmir tobaccos are grown in Akhisar and Gavurkoy with shallow, rocky, non-productive, slant, reddish and gray colored mountain slope soils. Very sunny and hot weather helps plants to produce small-sized leaves with resins which create aromatic flavor.
In drought years plants can be irrigated once or twice if possible. Rich and heavy soils cause improper colored, odorless and harsh tobaccos.
Planting density in oriental type tobaccos are 2x to 3x denser than flue-cured or Burley types! This makes for an extremely efficient crop, able to grow up to 250% more product in the same space. Not only that, but some research has shown extreme resistance to different molds and fungus that plagues the humid parts of the world (ex. central America).
Izmir strain variations include:
Small sized leaves, fine texture, vivid colors vary from yellow to orange (and brown), mild smoke, distinctive taste and nice flavor.
Izmir tobacco has “zenepsiz” stalkless type small leaves. The leaf size is wanted to be about 7-15 cm (2.75 – 6 in).
The general rule is, leaf length must be 1.5 to 2 times of the leaf width. Izmir tobacco plants’ heights are between 0.60 to 1.20 m.
Leaves are fine ribbed, curly and very durable against mechanical impacts. Some leaves may have brown spots on their tip, this shows the nobility of the plant. Tobaccos are low combustible, sweet and aromatic. For these reasons Izmir is widely used in oriental and American blends. Izmir can be used for reducing harshness of the strong blends or improving aromas of the neutral tobaccos. Also This strain can be used in pipe tobacco blends. 90% of the Izmir tobacco is exported to international markets.
Izmir strain has sub-strains like:
Ege, Saribaglar, Karabaglar, Ozbas, Otan, Akhisar, Resatbey, Usturalı, Ligda, Milas, Kokulu and Çıtır.
Because of the uniform agricultural lands in Aegean Region they both have similar characteristics. Some of the most notable are:
small leaves, stalk less (basma type), yellow and greenish yellow colored, fine ribbed, sweet and aromatic taste.
In the Aegean Region, mountains are vertical to the sea, so there is very little climate difference between coastal side and inner side. This situation brings the formation of identical tobaccos among the region.