Always a pleasure to meet my old friend Ziqui, a Chinese businessman residing for more than a decade in Havana and to share his passion for cigars and having a few hours of good conversation. We have met both in Havana and in Beijing and share some funny adventures and good times over the last 10 years.
Knowing that he was born in 70’s and to celebrate the recent birth of his son I invited Ziqui and Yannick from France to smoke a 1970’s Romeo Y Julieta Clemenceau at Club Habana, his preferred smoking spot.
He had never smoked such an aged cigar and was very keen to do it.
Suffice to say that he was more than happy and satisfied, overwhelmed is more like it.
Both Yannick and I enjoyed the two hours of very relaxed conversations on cigar exports to China and the problems a state monopoly can cause.
He suggested we repeat the cigar experience and invite the Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Mr Zhang, a good friend of his and a very interested cigar smoker, one of the few ambassadors seriously into cigars.
I agreed immediately as I had met H.E. Mr Zhang a few years before at the introduction of the Cohiba Piramide Extra and had fond memories.
I also knew that he had visited the Lung Kong society in HAV several times that I and my friends support.
So a few days later we met again at Club Habana, the Ambassador arriving in his black Benz flying the flag denoting this was an official event.
The cigars selected by Mr Zhang and by Ziqui were C.E. Beck from the early 1950’s in cellophane.
The merits of the cellophane were discussed as well as the oils impressed in it.
Leo the Club’s manager chimed in on the history of the Marca and we continued on the merits of having tobacco and cigars coming from one Vega and rolled by one/a few roller(s) as opposed to today’s procedures. Also on the necessity of doing better marketing by promoting all the excellent tobacco planters and rollers.
On the need to educate Chinese smokers and lead them past the current fad of “smoking bands” avoiding nouveau riche caricatures.
The conversation was held in Spanish, Mr Zhang having studied in Spain immediately noticed my Castilian accent and wondered about my background. Impressive that he’d recognized the accent right away and a very friendly and interesting two hour long tour d’ horizon exchange began as mentioned above on all kinds of topics ranging from cigars, tobacco varieties, cigar storage and aging, Cuban economics, Chinese development since the 1970’s, Chinese smoking habits and Hong Kong cigar collectors and habits. He was most impressed learning that the author of the most important cigar book published and one of the largest collectors is a Cantonese from Hong Kong. He had just hosted the former HK Chief Executive in Havana during the Festival and kindly extended an invitation to both Min Ron Nee and myself to meet again and continue the conversation.
From his previous duty stations in South America and his long tenure in Havana Mr Zhang was very qualified to give an analysis on Cuba’s need for economic change especially comparing China’s ways to market reforms.
As he was suffering from the same cold and coughing problems as I was, I presented him with a 1987 Rafael Gonzalez for a later smoking pleasure.
A most thoroughly enjoyed cigar afternoon with a most interested, interesting, humble and intelligent gentleman. I look forward to a repeat.
He was kind enough to express his happiness about the cigars in a short video for Min Ron Nee.