Cologne ladies rolling cigars

by Annette Meisl

In Ehrenfeld, seven women offer the house brand “La Galana” and a Cuban attitude to life

When she talks about her first time, her eyes light up. The story takes place on the first day of the new millennium, on a porch in Cojimar, Cuba. Gregorio Fuentes' (103) rocking chair creaks, the sea roars, and the longing sound of guitars mixes in. While the old man, who sailed the sea with Ernest Hemingway when he was young, spins his sailor's yarn, he enjoys a Corona with Cuban rum. Seduced by this ambience, Annette Meisl cannot resist.

She follows suit: “That was when I smoked my first cigar.” This was not without consequences. Back in Germany, the Cologne resident couldn't let go of this experience and its initial spark. Meisl, who had often reinvented herself again and again - among other things
She was a musician, founder of an artist agency and theater director in Madrid, she translated, worked as a film extra and wrote a book - reinvented herself once again: “The thought of launching my own cigar brand had taken hold and wouldn't let me go. You have to follow the traces that life leaves.” The Cologne cigar manufacturer “La Galana” has been around since 2005. Four years later, Meisl opened the stylishly furnished shop with an attached salon in the Ehrenfeld district.

“The fact that we are all ladies here is part of the company philosophy,” says Meisl, “the name “La Galana” refers to a woman who enjoys her life, who knows exactly what she wants, but also enjoys her femininity very much.” In addition to boss Annette, there are shop managers
Patricia and the five “torcedoras” (cigar rollers) Yoleivis, Alicia, Silvia, Maykelin and Magaly are part of the team. You can see at first glance that “La Galana” not only sells cigars – in seven formats from the in-house label – but also an attitude to life when you enter the premises at Venloer Straße 213.

Between original rolling tables and stacks of cigar presses, in the middle of old suitcases, radios and display cases, plush armchairs, Panama hats and sepia-brown photos, you feel like you've fallen out of time: "The feeling of the past is also something that 'La Galana' connects.” The “afficionados” meet in the salon to smoke a Robusto or Churchill. Unlike cigarettes, the smoke from cigars is not inhaled, which is not for hectic people: “A cigar needs time, a certain ambience and a beautiful environment.” The salon also hosts cigar tastings and seminars in which you can learn the art of rolling cigars can learn the basics. There is also a rum or coffee at the bar, Cuban music plays and stories make the rounds. For example, that of Ronaldo Creagh, a veteran of the “Buena Vista Social Club”, who, before his death, insisted on making a detour to the shop full of ladies to take over the sponsorship of “La Galana”.

Otherwise, much to the owner's chagrin, there are generally more men there: "There aren't enough women who smoke cigars." Aside from the gender question, the customers are diverse: "It goes through all social classes
and age groups. Some of them come to us from far away.” In addition to the house brand, whose mix is ​​always the same, you can also buy products at “La Galana” that come directly from Cuba: for example Montecristo cigars, rum or beer. Books and chocolate are also part of the range. “I find it sensual,” says Meisl when asked why she, who used to smoke cigarettes, now picks up a cigar, “the taste, the smoke, the feeling of meditation that comes with it. The roundness of the cigar also has something symbolic for me. It has to do with a love of life and philosophy, with telling and collecting stories. For me the cigar is a complete work of art.”

Which also needs time to mature. It can take years from planting to harvesting, drying and fermenting the tobacco to manufacturing and storage. The basic training in professional cigar rolling in Cuba takes eight months alone, “even longer depending on the format. And then you have to practice, practice, practice.” The good news: anyone can learn. Men too, by the way.

April 25, 2017, General-Anzeiger Bonn, Susanne Schramm

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