Tobacco was one of the precious gifts the indigenous people of the Antille Islands presented to Christopher Columbus when he landed in the Caribbean in 1492. Cultivated by the Mayan Empire as a highly prized medicinal plant, tobacco had traveled from Mexico south to the Caribbean where it came to the attention of Columbus and his men. According to legend, one of Columbus' sailors rolled the dried whole leaves into a cylinder, lighted one end and inhaled the smoke. Delighting in the sensation, he inadvertently created a crude prototype of the cigar, which recently has been re-marketed into a trendy luxury item.
By 1560, tobacco was known throughout Europe as a medicinal plant thanks to Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal. Nicot was enamored both with the plant's flower, which he wore as a boutonniere, and its medicinal properties. For a time tobacco was known as "Nicotina" in honor of Nicot who introduced it to France, but the name "tobacco" eventually prevailed as the world1s largest producer became the island of Tobago, the Caribbean's southernmost island above the Port of Spain off Venezuela.
In 1614, King Philip III of Spain established Seville as tobacco center of the world. Attempting to prevent a tobacco glut, Philip required all tobacco grown in the Spanish New World to be shipped to a central location, Seville, Spain. Seville became the world center for the production of cigars. European cigarette use began here, as beggars patched together tobacco from used cigars, and rolled them in paper (papeletes). Spanish and Portuguese sailors spread the practice to Russia and the Levant. This began what we know today as modern hand rolled cigarette.
It is interesting to note that once science was able to separate the plant's chemical components, its offending component was dubbed "nicotine". Many of the plant1s remaining ingredients are mainstays of modern pharmacopia.
Rolling papers are made from a variety of sources. Here are some definitions and descriptions, so that you can find the best paper suited to your needs. Such compositional considerations such as all-hemp, partially comprised of hemp, no hemp, bleached, unbleached, organic, non-organic, available size, gum composition, no gum, evenness of burn, all become common considerations for the informed connoisseur of the rolling paper market.
Hemp is one of the strongest plant fibers in the world. Hemp papers have gained a great deal of popularity over the years because of the "tree-free" nature of this product. They burn very smoothly and, in general, are a little heavier thus making them easier to roll tobacco, especially heavier or larger cuts.
Rice papers are made from rice plant fibres. They often burn very slowly allowing the smoker to savour the experience. Originating in Japan and China this type of paper has become popular throughout the world. However, often rice papers will still contain hemp fibres too.
Flax is a fiber taken from the Linum or linaria plant which is commonly used to make linen. Flax is becoming more popular as it creates in the paper blend a silkiness and smoothness that makes rolling a pleasure while imparting little or no unwanted additional taste to the smoke.