Leaves of Life

Cigar factory PD Taru Martani is one of the many surviving historical icons in tradition-steeped Yogyakarta.

In a place known better for its cigarettes, PD Taru Martani is the country’s oldest and the largest cigar maker. Built in 1918 under the name N.V. Negresco by a Dutch company Mignot & De Block Cigar Company. After World War II, the factory was taken over by the late Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX and renamed Taru Martani, a Javanese term for the leaves of life. The company is now owned and managed by the local government. The building’s structure remains largely unchanged in its 94-year-history and today nearly all the production is still done by hand and not machine. In keeping with its name, Taru Martani gives life to 250 staff, 80% of them women (who are considered better cigar makers than men). The factory produces around seven million cigars a year using mostly local tobacco, of which 90% is exported to U.S. and European countries.

* This story appears in the April 2012 issue of Forbes Indonesia magazine.

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