As the CEO of The Tabacalera Del Oriente, Peru’s only tobacco company, Gennaro Lettieri shares about the journey that brought him to start this company, and what makes Peruvian tobacco unique in the world.
Where have you lived?
I was born in Poggiomarino, Napoli (Italy). I lived in Switzerland from ages 13-18, and then moved to London, where I lived until I was 28 years old.
What did you study and what did you used to do?
I come from a family of home-fabric salespeople. I speak four languages, and I studied business at the European Business School of London. After graduating, I worked in London as an investment banker.
When and why did you come to Peru?
I was brought to Peru by life, in 2004. My father and I were travelling through Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru with the idea of finding somewhere to invest, since Europe was growing increasingly competitive. We decided to settle in Peru because of the country’s situation in that time.
What attracted you to Tarapoto as opposed to somewhere else?
When people ask me about my country or about the countries I’ve visited, I always respond saying that Peru has everything and that Tarapoto is a paradise thanks to its people, its charm, the food, and the weather. It offers the perfect balance of work and quality living. Many people in Europe have forgotten about themselves. They have forgotten to enjoy special moments. They live running from place to place, often without knowing where to go, or what to do. Tarapoto has taught me that life can be simple and easy, without complications; that we are the ones who complicate our existence. When I arrived here my ‘inner craftsman’ flourished. Making a cigar is a long, meticulous, and artistic job that starts with a seed in a field.
You own the only cigar company in Peru. Why did you come into the world of tobacco?
Because of passion. Because I dreamt of making a product that allowed me to be involved from the very beginning, and throughout the whole, delicate process – which in this case, can take many years. Besides, the tobacco plant is native to Peru – as confirmed by Cubans themselves – and we haven’t even begun to take advantage of it.
What is a Peruvian cigar like?
It’s a medium-strength cigar with a complex bouquet full of subtle hints. If you ask me, it’s the best in the world. In reality, it’s very appreciated amongst smokers and aficionados. We continue to introduce it into demanding markets, like England, that are currently monopolized by Cuban producers. Peruvian cigars are gaining popularity. This year we will be introducing them into Germany and the USA.
What’s your biggest challenge?
To be like a salmon, always swimming against the current. On a macro level, the world attitude right now is generally anti-tobacco, and while this doesn’t really affect cigar producers, it still worries us. Speaking on a micro level, we feel as though being here, in ‘paradise’, we are a bit isolated from everything and it creates logistical complications in terms of exporting product and importing materials. We have to find efficient ways to better diffuse our products.
Find out more about The Tabacalera Del Oriente
Visit their website
Or Visit in Person:
Martínez de Compagñon 1138
Tarapoto, San Martín, Perú
Telephone: (51 42) 52 7911
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This interview previously appeared in Ultimate Journeys Peru
Cover photo: Wikimedia