What Is Shisha?
Shisha is the common name for a type of flavored tobacco with a syrupy consistency, mixed with vegetable glycerin, molasses, and a variety of flavorings, commonly smoked from a hookah. In some countries, shisha is what people call the hookah pipe itself.
History of hookah tobacco
Hookah pipes have been used for centuries in social settings and for private enjoyment, but the shisha tobacco itself is a relatively new invention, having its origins stem back to the early 20th century. Prior to the invention of shisha, people smoked raw tobacco from hookah pipes. This was never an easy task to accomplish.
To be smoked, the tobacco needed to be mixed with water, squeezed, and molded into a shape conducive to fitting in the hookah bowl before it could be used. It took an effort to keep it lit, and even when it was, it produced a harsh taste and a potent smell, delivering a heavy dose of nicotine to the smoker.
By the end of the 1990s, hookahs ceased to be the popular way to consume tobacco. They were primarily still used by older Middle Easterners who got together with friends in cafes to smoke socially. When shisha, a milder, flavored tobacco variant became available in the early 1990s, young people acquired an interest in hookah smoking again, thanks to shisha's pleasant scent and taste, as well as the appeal of its ease of use. It didn't take long for shisha to become the most popular type of hookah tobacco. An ever-increasing variety of shisha flavor choices, promotion, and easy availability on the internet grew shisha sales quickly and exponentially.
What is shisha made up of?
The shisha (sometimes known as waterpipe tobacco) is made up of a tobacco leaf, molasses, vegetable glycerin, and a variety of flavorings.
How is shisha made?
Shisha tobacco is typically made with a process of fermentation of tobacco with glycerine, molasses, and variants of flavorings. These days the tobacco for hookahs is mass-produced and automated, with factories utilizing machines at nearly every stage of development.
The process starts by refrigerating the tobacco for 24 hours to kill off any microbes or pathogens that might be contaminating the raw plant. It is then transferred into a cutting machine where it is chopped up into smaller, finer particles and cleaned off the stems. After that, it is washed and dried.
Next comes the process of sweetening and moistening the tobacco leaf. This is done by mixing it with molasses and vegetable glycerine, which helps tobacco better tolerate heat and intensifies its cloud output. This sweetening process can take as little as 2 days to as long as several months. This process allows the tobacco to ferment. Fermentation is a chemical reaction triggered by temperature, humidity, and sometimes pressure. This process is sometimes referred to as tobacco aging and it allows the tobacco to retain a more uniform color, as well as a particular taste specific to the process by which it was fermented.
Once the tobacco reaches the desired consistency, the flavoring process begins by moving it to a flavoring machine. Once the flavoring is complete, the tobacco moves to the final stage of the development process: packaging. The packaging is fully automated, and no human hands ever touch the product after the flavoring.
Types of shisha tobacco leaves
Blonde leaf (Virginia) tobacco
Generally, shisha tobacco manufacturers use Virginia (blonde) tobacco. It is grown in 75 countries globally and composes about 40% of the tobacco used on Earth. It bears a bright yellow tint at the start of the process which is where its ‘blonde’ moniker is derived from. It is also known as a form of tobacco most enjoyable for those who do not have a high nicotine tolerance.
The tobacco is boiled or washed before production begins in order to drain it of the maximum amount of nicotine. This reduces the nicotine-induced buzz while allowing the flavor to be more prominent during smoking.
The tobacco leaves are dried with a process called curing, with molasses or honey, along with flavoring oils, and molasses are added to create the final shisha product.
Dark leaf tobacco
To serve as the blonde tobacco’s counterpart, dark leaf tobacco is not washed and thereby retains much of its nicotine content. Dark tobacco is not only for its color (ranging from bright to very dark brown) but also for its more earthy tones and flavor. Most of the popular dark tobacco brands like Tangiers, Azure Black Line, and Trifecta Dark, use burley tobacco, the most popular dark tobacco variant used for shisha production. The highest quality burley tobacco leaves are from Central America, United States, Indonesia, and Uganda.
Essentially, dark leaf tobacco is unprocessed tobacco, which allows it to retain a stronger flavor. During its development into shisha, the nicotine content of dark tobacco stays at roughly 0.5% (about 10x of washed tobacco). Due to its higher nicotine content, dark tobacco gives the smoker a greater buzz. Because not everyone is used to the sensation, dark tobacco is recommended to smokers who have a built-up nicotine tolerance.
Burley is air-dried, which means that most of the sugar content is withdrawn, its color changes shade, and its smell is reminiscent of tobacco smell commonly associated with cigars.
Packing shisha into the bowl
The fluff pack
To perform a "fluff pack" one picks up the tobacco with fingers, and in a rubbing motion, separates the tobacco leaves, letting them crumble into the bowl until the content of the bowl is filled.
Then either toothpick, hole poker, or fork is used to redirect the leaves a bit and to remove any excess that might be overfilling the bowl's rim. The most important part is to spread the tobacco around the rim level instead of putting it down because there need to be multiple pockets of air in the pack.
The ideal brands to use for a 'fluff pack' are Starbuzz, Social Smoke, and Fumari.
The normal pack
While the method used for a normal pack is similar to the fluff pack, the difference is the increased density. This type of packing is the generally accepted industry norm and is therefore dubbed as 'normal.' The tobacco is sprinkled into the bowl until the edge of the rim, making it as dense as gravity permits. When the bowl is filled, using a fork or a hole poker, lightly pat it down, forming the air pockets.
Knowing the density levels of the pack is the most important attribute of the process. It is best to learn to associate the word 'normal' with the term 'slight' so when the sprinkling to the tobacco is complete, the patting is done in such a manner as to leave air pockets to allow the tobacco to breathe for maximum enjoyment.
The perfect brands to use for a 'normal pack' are Ugly Hookah, Al Fakher, Adalya, Zomo Blonde, Trifecta Blonde Line, and Afzal.
The dense pack
The final packing method is dubbed the 'dense pack,' and it is commonly utilized when packing a bowl with dark hookah tobacco blends. The key is the even distribution of tobacco, starting with the distribution of the fluff pack, the pat-down of the normal pack, then spreading the tobacco at the top around the rim to minimize or eliminate air pockets entirely. Using your preferred utensil, check if the tobacco feels spongy. Gently nudging the tobacco will get you to the point of your pack's desired density.
Hookah tobacco brands like Azure Black Line, Zomo Strong Line, Tangiers, and Nakhla benefit most from this style of packing. The dense pack is generally conducive to those brands with the highest volume of nicotine content.
How to mix hookah flavors
Choosing the flavor combination
Before blending multiple flavors, one must select the primary blend: the base. The base choice depends on the type of blend you are seeking to achieve (fruity, savory, a bit of both). The best method is to start with a flavor you know you enjoy, as it will overpower the other flavors. If you know you enjoy it, even if the blend is not your ideal, you will still taste predominantly the tobacco that you enjoy. Instead of going for something complex, it is recommended that a nice fresh flavor, like a melon, is selected. The base should comprise 50% of your total tobacco, while the secondary flavors should make up only 10% to 20% each. You can adjust the primary flavor to higher amounts to make up the slack.
Shisha mixing techniques
Hookah tobacco flavor blending is actually quite simple. Once the proportionality of each flavor in the mix is decided upon, the shishas can simply be mixed together, then added to the bowl, and smoking can begin.
By comparison to other methods of mixing, blending is the best way to achieve a unique and consistent flavor. While smoking a blend, one does not taste each individual flavor, but rather a unique combination of tastes fused together. There will not be a predominant taste at the beginning versus the end, but rather a consistent one throughout. Besides that, while the shisha is mixed, the level of glycerin and molasses will be equal, promoting better heat management and longer smoking sessions.
If the goal is to taste each individual flavor in small bursts, the method of sectioning can be a better option. With sectioning, little nuances over every flavor are present, complemented by other flavors in the same smoking session.
Sectioning is achieved by adding flavors in the bowl side by side. The key to the optimal sectioned mix is to understand the strength of every added flavor of each hookah tobacco before arranging them together. While a blend offers multiple flavors fused into one unique combination, sectioning mixes a sum of separate parts that allow each flavor to have its most tasteful moments. Ultimately, the sectioned flavors still blend, while retaining their own individual mark on the smoking session.
The layering method is essentially a combination of both the blending and sectioning methods. A bowl pack that is layered allows different flavors to hit at different times, adding a level of increased enjoyment.
To achieve a layer pack, one must begin with the flavor they would like to be the predominant one in the pack. It's also important to consider the heating aspect as some flavors are less prominent with heat, while others stand out. The knowledge of which can really only be achieved from smoking the flavors often. This will educate a smoker on which shishas have flavor profiles that are more subtle, and which are more prominent. Knowing these attributes lets the smoker focus on compiling the perfect ratio for a perfectly balanced base. Once the base is found, the bowl can be topped off with other flavors and the smoking can begin.
All hookah flavors available for sale at Iconhookah.com
There is no shortage of hookah flavor variety. There are hundreds of selections to choose from, making the number of different pack combinations astronomical.
Brands we offer
If a wide variety of flavored shisha is what you seek, you have come to the right place! We carry everything from traditional shisha brands like Nakhla to modern tobacco brands like Overdozz and Zomo. The modern brands have been very popular among hookah smokers of the world and should be given a fair shot.
New shisha flavors are constantly arriving on the market, especially through Starbuzz. Trifecta Tobacco could possibly be one of the most creative shisha manufacturers in the world, while some of the most globally popular shisha flavors come from Tangiers, Al-Fakher, and Adalya. Come explore Icon Hookah for your choice of almost 20 of the top of the line tobacco brands on the market today!
Most of the hundreds of different hookah tobacco flavors available fall into seven primary categories. It is typically a safe bet that if a smoker enjoys one flavor in a particular group, they are likely to enjoy most of them.
By far the most popular shisha category is the fruit-flavored one. These can be anything ranging from as common as apple-flavored to something as exotic as dragon fruit. Most smokers end up smoking most fruit flavors at least once, and likely for the majority of their smoking sessions.
These are so common and popular because they're easy to enjoy. Plus, every shisha producing brand offers at least one fruit-flavored tobacco type. Fruit flavors can be broken down into subcategories as well, but they are generally enjoyed by everyone.
Mint flavored hookah flavors typically carry some level of a cooling effect, with a rich flavor of some type of mint including peppermint, spearmint, and some brands even offer menthol flavor. The mint flavors are generally considered pure mints, not flavors that have mint added to them. While many people love this type of hookah tobacco, it is not suited to everyone’s taste.
Berry flavored shisha is unique in its bitter and sweet taste. Most berry-flavored tobacco brands include raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry varieties.
While dubbed the ‘floral category, this one includes more than just strictly floral flavors. These flavors are mostly not enjoyed by newer smokers as they lack the sweetness of other tobacco choices. They are also much deeper flavors, but their lack of richness is tailored to a more refined palette.
Those smokers interested in exploring floral flavored shisha find Al Fakher’s “Rose” flavor to be a good starter. The ‘Kashmir’ floral tobacco by Tangiers is the commonly regarded top of the line in terms of floral flavored products.
The spice flavored tobacco category is usually identified by their spice-centric attributes, with tastes that include cardamom, cinnamon, anise, and even eucalyptus.
For those with a real sweet tooth, the dessert flavor category of shisha might be the most appealing one. These flavors include dessert delicacies like ice cream, cookies, muffins, cheesecake, and other popular dessert tastes. These carry a buttery flavor that appeals to anyone who really enjoys a good sweet chase to their meals.
Flavors of beverages
The flavored tobaccos in the beverage category can carry tastes of anything from smoothies to coffee. Commonly smoked flavors also include spiced tea and some popularly consumed cocktails like the Pina Colada and Mojito.
Where are the brands produced?
At Icon Hookah, we carry shisha tobacco products from around the world. These include products made in Europe and even in Latin America. Specifically, our products are produced in the United States, Turkey, Germany, Paraguay, India, Spain, Jordan, and UAE.
Weights and package types
The packages come in an array of weighted categories, including packs of 50g, 100g, 250g, or even 1kg tubs.
The price points of hookah tobacco can range from as low as $3 for a 50g package to as much as (or over) $70 for 1kg tubs. The price largely depends on the brand and the type of tobacco being purchased. The average prices for every package size tend to break down as follows:
$3.50 for a 50g pack
$10 for a 100g pack
$18 for a 250g pack
$55 for a 1kg tub
At Icon Hookah, we are proud of our products, and we stand behind their quality. We are deeply committed to helping you acquire the best hookah tobacco flavors to suit your tastes and helping you reach big cloud output. Our production process begins with using only the top-quality raw tobacco leaves. These are thoroughly processed and expertly tested in high-end facilities.
We are happy to share our knowledge and experience, as well as provide any guidance you might need if you feel that you have any questions.
Shisha can either be in tobacco form, which does possess nicotine content, or it can be a nicotine-free herbal molasses type. The typical shisha tobacco nicotine content is about 0.05%. The brand that is known as having the highest nicotine content in their tobacco is Tangiers, averaging about 0.3% to 0.4%.
Most hookah tobaccos are sealed in airtight foil packages. The most important thing in terms of storage is to keep your shisha in a cool, dry environment, particularly for the purposes of keeping it out of direct sunlight. An ideal place to house it tends to be in a cabinet or a drawer, at room temperature. As an alternative to the original packaging, you can also store the hookah tobacco in special airtight containers. Resealable storage containers tend to work the best.
Shisha does have "best by" and "sell by" dates, but unlike food, tobacco does not depreciate to the point of unusability. If kept in an airtight container or in its original packaging, shisha will never really expire in terms of being unable to be smoked and will stay fresh for over 6 months. After that time, it will begin to dry out gradually, which will affect the way it tastes when smoked. Generally speaking, the shisha will remain fresh for over two years from the production date.
Concerned that the shisha might have expired? If it does not have any compromised growth and does not appear to be overly dry, then it should be fine for you to use in your next smoking session.
As of January 1st, 2020, the United States has raised the legal purchasing age of all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. There are no military exemptions to this law, and it is a legal requirement observed by all states and dominions of the United States. The buyer must be 21 years or older in order to legally purchase from tobacco retailers, whether they are of a brick-and-mortar or online variety.