Having a quality cigar is much more than smoking a cigar

Bruce Levy in front of his walk-in humidor. A.M. Costa Rica photo

Does a cigar represent a political statement?

For Bruce Levy, the answer is yes. He sees cigars and smoking them as freedom, an escape from the restrictive atmosphere and attitude of the United States.

Levy runs The Humidor Room, a place where expats and tourists can buy high-quality cigars, including those from Cuba which are forbidden in the United States.

Levy also sees his operation as an extension of the tourism industry. He seems to have a point because a visit to his business in the Hotel Little Havana shows several cigar smokers waxing philosophical about the smoke, their life and world conditions.

Some of the smokers appear to be experts on the subject of cigars. They toss names around the way wine connoisseurs do. And, it turns out, that Costa Rica is not too far behind the world’s better cigars. Several firms, like Vegas Santiago S.A., in Puriscal produce top-of-the-line products. Nicaragua produces good tobacco, too, they said.

Levy stocks the Puriscal smokes along with the fabled Padrón, which is made in Florida.

The attraction for most expats, however, are the Cuban cigars, like the Cohíba, perhaps because the U.S. government says they are off-limits.

A single cigar can range as high as $60, although plenty are available for $10 each on up.

Levy is not the only businessman to have a comfortable place where smokers can sit and enjoy. There are several in the valley. And this type of setup would seem to be isolated from the movement to outlaw smoking of any kind in restaurants and bars.

One Levy customer has what amounts to a roach clip so that he can smoke his Cuban cigar to the very end. Levy describes the experience as seven or more changes in flavors as the cigar burns down. Like most cigar experts, he uses a butane lighter to relight a half-smoked cigar that goes out because the owner is talking and not smoking.

There is something that appears to be a form of male bonding as men sit around smoking quality cigars.

At one point a customer started to break down as he discussed his role in the Vietnam war, his life afterwards and his current recovery from traumatic stress. A tear appeared in his eye.

Levy has been running the cigar operation for eight months. He said he has smoked every one of the many brands of cigars he carries as a test of quality.

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