Pipe Tobacco at Belo Horizonte, Brazil's Central Market

Several weeks ago I traveled down to Brazil to visit family and tour a little bit. While visiting my family in Belo Horizonte, I and my uncle Ronald hopped on the bus and headed downtown to the Mercado Central. The Central Market is like a very old-school mall, one square-block-sized building with an open-air market feeling. (Did I break the record for most hyphens in that sentence?)

There were wheels of cheese and bottles of cachaça and cold cuts and candy and touristy knick-knacks. But oh boys and girls, what I was most excited about was the tobacco shop.

There were several different tobaccos, all Brazilian, treated and aged and spun into immense ropes that had been wrapped into piles and placed on the counters. Since the tobacco was mostly rope, there was a large selection of knives for cutting the plugs. And, perhaps best of all, there were pipes. Beautiful, well made little things, fully the equal of pipes to be found in Europe or the United States. I bought two pipes for about US$70. I would have been very excited to get just one pipe of that quality for $70 in the U.S., and would have expected to pay well over a hundred. So...that made the airfare more palatable!

The first time I walked by the guy I was talking to seemed like he'd just been hired, and didn't know much about much. The second time around, however, I had better luck. The men who served me seemed to have opinions about the several tobaccos, which at first I found helpful. They did share one thing in common with tobacco shop workers from every nation: they assumed I knew nothing about smoking. That vibe was strong enough off them that I decided I'd better just go for what I thought I'd like, although I did decide not to go for the tobacco they all wrinkled their noses at while almost yelling "That one's bad! That one's bad!"

I wish I knew what kinds of tobacco were on offer. The men knew where in the country each tobacco had come from, but had little concept of types and strains of tobacco, or differences in aging and treatment. And it was obvious that there was quite a variety. I wonder if any pipe smokers living in Brazil would be able to tell me more.

There were no tins or high-end northern hemisphere tobaccos available, but, interestingly enough, Captain Black and Carter Hall were. I left the shop having thoroughly enjoyed myself, but not impressed with the level of knowledge (hey, what did I expect, I was at a fair!). That made me nervous about the quality of the tobacco I'd bought, but I went home with the consoling thought that at least the tobacco had been inexpensive.

When I arrived at my aunt's house I cut off a plug, rubbed it out, and fired her up.

As good as any. Made me think of dark, peppery virginias. Happy day. I stashed a pound in my suitcase to fly home with.

After you scroll through the pictures, you'll find a video I shot at the tobacco counter.

My uncle Ronald in front of the cheeses.


  1. I'm so glad I found your review and comments on Brazilian Rope tobacco. I actually have not found a Brazilian pipe smoker that could seriously talk about the nuances of these different rope tobacco. What most of the people talk about is how strong it is on the nicotine content, tongue bite, etc. I think they are highly underrated. Please, let me know more of your opinion about how it tastes, etc. thank you. Marlon

    1. Ô irmão, eu não comecei a fumar cachimbo até chegar nos Estados Unidos. Eu poderia lhe dar a minha opinião sobre o que eu trouxe de Belo Horizonte mas além disso nada.


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