Turkish tobacco

Drying of tobacco on the streets of Prilep, Macedonia

Oriental tobacco or Turkish tobacco is a highly aromatic, small-leafed variety of tobacco which is sun-cured. Historically, it was cultivated primarily in Thrace and Macedonia, now divided among Bulgaria, Greece the Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey, but it is now also grown on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, in Egypt, in South Africa, and elsewhere.

The name "Turkish" refers to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the historic production areas until the late 19th/early 20th century.

Many of the early brands of cigarettes were made mostly or entirely of Turkish tobacco; today, its main use is in blends of pipe and especially cigarette tobacco.

Turkish tobacco is sun-cured, which makes it more aromatic and, like flue-cured tobacco, more acidic than air or smoke-cured tobacco, thus more suitable for cigarette production.[1]

Turkish tobacco has a much milder flavor and contains less nicotine and fewer carcinogens than other varieties.[2] Cigarettes containing only Turkish tobacco, like Murad, Helmar, Balkan Sobranie or those supplied by urban tobacconists like Fribourg & Treyer or Sullivan Powell in London, are no longer available.[3] Blends, however, persist: the American Blend cigarette, in particular, uses Turkish mixed with more robust tobacco such as Virginia tobacco and Burley. Turkish tobacco plants usually have a greater number and smaller size leaves. These differences can be attributed to climate, soil, cultivation, and treatment methods.


Stacks of dried oriental tobacco in Prilep, Macedonia

Tobacco originated in the Americas and was introduced to the Ottoman Turks by the Spanish. The Ottoman people over time developed their own method of growing and using tobacco.

Balkan Smoke: Tobacco and the Making of Modern Bulgaria by Mary Neuburger offers a comprehensive history of Oriental tobacco in the Balkans and how it came to dominate global markets in the 1960s


  1. Jordan Goodman (1994). Tobacco in History. Taylor and Francis. p. 97. ISBN 9780203993651.
  2. http://www.american.edu/ted/turkish-tobacco.htm Archived September 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Tobacco Timeline: The Twentieth Century 1900-1949--The Rise of the Cigarette". tobacco.org. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
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