Chewing tobacco is a type of smokeless tobacco product consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or upper lip teeth and chewing. Unlike dipping tobacco, it is not ground and must be manually crushed with the teeth to release flavour and nicotine.
Leaf chewing tobacco has been known around the world by many names which all mean just “Chewing tobacco”. In the states, Chew and Chaw were the most common names that Leaf chewing tobacco was known for hundreds of years. The method of chewing tobacco leaves goes way back in history to the Native North and South Americans, where they would chew the leaves with the mineral Lime to help bring out the Nicotine. The American colonists adapted the practice of chewing tobacco leaves but put an American spin to its manufacture.
Native Americans would either dry the tobacco in the sun or, just chew it straight from the plant but, the colonists wanted to create a product that was more palatable and therefore, more saleable! What they first figured was if they added a smoky element, it would mellow the harsh flavour of the raw tobacco so they erected unique drying barns and built smouldering fires within them where the smoke would flavour the tobacco. The next thing they did was to add a sweet element to it by soaking the smoked tobacco in either Molasses or sugar water. This gave the tobacco a well rounded flavour that was both smoky and sweet and immediately became a huge success. The flavour combination was so successful that even today, the recipes haven’t changed!
In the American west, chewing tobacco was the most popular form of tobacco use by gold miners and cowboys due to its low cost, portability and ease of use. All you would have to do was open the foil pouch, take out a leaf or two, put it in your cheek and chew.
In the 1930’s though, chewing tobacco began to fall out of favour due to the invention of the pre-rolled cigarette but was still popular in the south where the tobacco was grown.