The cigar market is never considered a mass-market but a niche in China. In western countries, however, the cigar has already become a popular commodity and people love to enjoy it. Therefore, for those cigar fans from overseas, I’m pretty sure you have no idea how cigar business is going here and how to find a quality cigar store and cigar lounge in China.
So today, as a Chinese cigar-smoker, I will share my own cigar experience in China with you, to help you be able to enjoy cigars in this country. First of all, let’s talk a bit about the Chinese cigar industry.
Cigar industry in China
According to statistics, there are 300 million smokers in China, being the world’s largest demand and consumption of cigarettes. However, only 3% of those Chinese smokers have experience in cigar smoking, which is about 9 million people.
In the United States, 28% of the smokers are stable cigar consumers, while this ratio is 15% in Europe. Just imagine that if 28% of those 300 million Chinese smokers are cigar consumers, just like the proportion of US, the total number of Chinese cigar customers can be expected to grow to 80 million, which makes China one of the most potential cigar markets in the world.
In fact, the expectation is not something hard to achieve if you take a look at the development of China in recent years. With the rapid improvement of the per capita living standard in China, Chinese consumers tend to choose products with quality and exclusiveness when choosing commodities.
Chinese consumers in the tobacco industry are no exception. Cigars with strong cultural meaning and excellent quality are regarded as symbols of taste and identity. In the face of market demand, the whole tobacco industry has already smelled this great potential market trend.
The National Tobacco work conference also just pointed out that “value the great importance of cultivating low tar products and cigars, guide consumption, lead the trend, and work together to build up well-known brands”. Without any doubt, cigars will become one of the development directions of Chinese tobacco in the future.
Cigar sales in China
During the Festival Del Habano event, the very famous Cuban cigar company, Habanos, announces that its sales record has been broken once again, achieving more than 500 million dollars. Habanos S.A., a 50-50 joint venture between the Cuban state and Britain’s Imperial Brand Plc (IMB.L), said sales in China astonishingly jumped 55% in value in 2018 while east Asia as a whole merely up 9%. China nowadays has already become the second-biggest market, after surpassing France, for Habanos.
From the above example, we can tell that the potential for China’s cigar market is absolutely huge and will continue to grow. According to statistics from Statista, the revenue of China in the cigars segment amounts to US$713.5m in 2020. The market is expected to grow annually by 6.9% (CAGR 2020 – 2023).
Where to buy Cigars in China
Unlike western countries, Chinese still don’t have very much cigar tradition now so cigar is still a niche thing. If you just directly go to a normal street cigarette shop and expect to buy a cigar, you will be disappointed. Then where to buy cigars in China?
1. Cigar Exclusive shop
Exclusive shop, in my opinion, is the most reliable way to buy cigars in China. It’s selling certified and quality cigar products. However, you usually can cigar exclusive shops only in some big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc. Of course, you can go to Hong Kong if it’s possible because there are more cigar exclusive shops than in mainland China.
If you’re living those big cities, you just need to search the shop’s name from the map apps and then the map apps will guide you to the destination. But I suggest you better use Chinese map apps to make sure accuracy.
2. Cigar Online store
There are lots of cigar online stores in China. It may sound like a convenient way to buy cigars, but it has its downside.
For one thing, the quality can’t be guaranteed. Because of the delivery process, there is no good humidity control, so the cigar might get too dry or too wet during the delivery, sometimes the cigar can be damaged. If you don’t find a really reliable cigar online store, buying a cigar online will be more like a gamble, you need to wish your cigar is protected well. For another, the cost is unstable regarding both time and money. Sometimes the delivery will cost up to 15 days and the cigar will get taxed (depends on your city).
But as far as I know, the cigar online store is the most common way for Chinese to buy cigars. Well, online shopping has been pretty blossoming in China for years, so I think the Chinese feel comfortable to buy cigars from online store.
3. Airport duty-free store
It’s another regular way to buy cigars in China. you can get tax free when going through China Customs bring less than 50 cigars. But the problem is obvious as well, which is the location of the airport. Normally, airports are located in places very, very far away from the center of the city in China so it’s not a convenient place to visit.
But cigar products sold in airport duty-free stores do have decent quality and it’s, in my opinion, the best reliable way to buy cigars in China besides the cigar exclusive shop.
4. Black market store
It’s an illegal way, but you can get really fancy Cuban cigars. If you can identify the right store, you’ll definitely find much higher quality cigars with a much lower price. What you have to know is that cigar tax in China is crazy high so smoking in China can be luxury compared to other countries.
However, you should remember this, it’s an illegal way and I don’t encourage any illegal thing.
5. Ask your friend bringing it for you
Well, if you don’t like all above ways to buy cigars, just ask your friends to bring some for you from oversea.
Cigar price in China
Because of the tobacco restriction, China stipulates that doing tobacco business need to have a special business license which is extremely hard to apply. Therefore, the real legal purchase channels are very limited, only those cigar stores and airport duty-free stores with tobacco business qualifications can legally sell cigars.
However, even though you know where to buy cigars, you might have to face another problem which is the price. The tariff of tobacco is considered a punitive tariff in China, so the tax rate is as high as 50%, which makes the price of selling cigars outrageous in China.
To me, buying cigar from online stores is my favorite way. Although the quality is hard to be guaranteed, there is one online store called TimeCigar (雪茄时间) can meet my expectation. It’s a Hong Kong cigar online store, introduced by one of my friends.
Chinese Cigar brands
You know what, there are many tobacco companies in China producing their own cigars. Yes, I’m talking about cigar made-in-China. If you’re interested, you can go check following 7 Chinese cigars, which may surprise you.
Great Wall Cigar (长城雪茄)
“Great Wall cigar” is one of the oldest domestic cigar brands in China, which was established in the late 1950s. In 1964, Sichuan Shifang cigarette factory (now known as Sichuan Zhongyan Great Wall cigar factory) was the first special cigar made by the central government. So far, there is still a secret history of “132” cigars named after the number of special cigars.
Today, “Great Wall cigar”, as a medium and high-end cigar brand, is mainly made of hand-made cigars and hand-rolled cigars. Based on the best material guarantee and world-leading formula, it not only provides a variety of product options but also meets the consumer’s top cigar consumption expectation and smoking experience.
Anhui Cigar (安徽雪茄)
In 1997, Anhui cigar and Dominican cigar company carried out technical cooperation, hiring experienced and skilled cigar technicians to train more than 100 professional and high-grade cigar technicians, and cooperated to produce all leaf roll cigar, which greatly improved the production technology level and laid the foundation for Anhui cigar products to take off.
The good market situation of Anhui cigars is not a one-day success, it is due to its consistency and the profound understanding of cigar culture, tirelessly pursuing the noble quality of cigars. With a long history of culture, Anhui’s hand-made cigar production has a leading level in China.
Huanghelou 1916 Cigar (黄鹤楼1916雪茄)
In 1916, Nanyang Brothers Company, which was the first tobacco brand in China, hired Bolivian formulators to develop the “Chinese Cigar No.1” cigar formula based on the Cuban formula and Chinese characteristics, and successfully created the first cigar formula in China.
In 2010, on the basis of “Chinese Cigar No.1” and combined with the habit and taste of Chinese people’s smoking, the top brand of Chinese cigars, Huanghelou 1916 cigar, was created, which opened the era of the luxury taste of Chinese hand-rolled cigars.
Taishan Cigar (泰山雪茄)
Shandong city is regarded as “the original place of Eastern cigars”. As early as in the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty, the cultivation and production of cigar tobacco in Shandong Province began. After a century of ups and downs and accumulation, “Taishan” cigar brand emerged, processing inheritance and innovation.
With the product style of “Eastern taste and modern technology”, Taishan cigar occupies an important position in the contemporary Eastern cigar industry.
Lion Brand Cigar (狮牌雪茄)
Lion Brand cigar was produced in 1929 and is the first fruit-flavored cigar in China, targeting the younger consumers, taking the machine-made cigar as the leading specification and following the world cigar trend. This cigar brand is focusing on providing consumers with personalized products and leading the consumption of the machine-made cigar.
Real cigar fans may think all machine-made cigars are garbage so I won’t say I strongly recommend it to you but just let you know there is a Chinese cigar brand called Lion.
Maoda Cigar (茂大雪茄)
Maoda cigar originated from Yichang Maoda roll tobacco factory in 1899. Maoda cigar, with its excellent quality, not only received numerous credit from Chinese consumers but also became the only domestic product that was comparable with foreign brands at that time, being exported to Japan and the United States.
After the closing of Maoda roll tobacco factory in 1901, the technology of manufacturing Maoda cigar has been spread. In 2003, Wuhan Tobacco (Group) Co., Ltd. and British American Tobacco Co., Ltd. jointly developed Maoda high-grade cigars.
Sanxia Cigar (三峡雪茄)
Sanxia cigar is the cigar brand of Hubei Chinese tobacco company, which is the brand they mainly develop and promote in recent years. The Sanxia cigar includes the traditional hand-rolled cigar and the mechanism small cigar, which all have an excellent market performance.
Sanxia cigar is made of Brazil’s high-quality natural tobacco leaf, adhering to the European traditional process formula and catering the Chinese smoking habits. Pure cigar leaves make Sanxia cigar more natural and mellow; imported production lines make it more quality guaranteed; international packaging makes it more simple and fashionable.