What Is A Hookah? An In-Depth Guide to Hookah for Beginners
The secondhand dangers of cigarette smoke have become more well known over the years. They have pushed people to the forefront of a new golden age of smoking alternatives, exploring inhalation trends. As such, there are a lot of folks who want to know how to smoke a hookah — or what a hookah is.
Whether you're new to the world of smoke shops or are a seasoned veteran, the immense diversity of products and related trends has led to a lot of smoking apparatuses on the market that may be utterly alien to you. Hookah is one blossoming niche smoking practice that almost everyone has seen or heard of at least once, but it is still far from being widely understood. Of course, the hookah's colorful twisting pipes stand out at any smoke shop, and surely the many "hookah bar" signs have caught your attention when passing by. But what is a hookah? That question then further branches off into more questions, like, how do you smoke a hookah? What do you smoke out of a hookah? What is it that makes hookah unique or different from a vape?
In this hookah for beginners guide, we'll take a look at each of these questions.
What Is A Hookah?
Plain and simple, a hookah is a smoking apparatus. But we're sure you already figured that much out. More specifically, behind all the ornaments and decorations that usually adorn a hookah, the functional apparatus only consists of a few essential parts.
The bowl is where the burning happens. It's the essential component when asking the question, "What do you smoke out of a hookah?" A hookah bowl holds hookah tobacco, or shisha tobacco, and will feed the smoke down into the rest of the hookah. Using a clay bowl is usually the best option, as clay makes a great conductor of heat. Ceramic bowls are also common but don't conduct heat as well as clay.
The body – often referred to as the hookah itself – is the long pipe that draws the smoke down from the bowl into the water dish. Bodies are often made out of brass or plastic, depending on your hookah model.
The water jar, or vase, is connected to the body and where the filtration occurs. Filling this jar with the correct amount of water is crucial for a good pull. Aiming for placement about an inch above where the hookah pipe ends should do the trick.
The hose is a crucial part — if you want to actually smoke and not just have your hookah sit around for decoration, that is. The hose comes out of the water chamber and is where you'll be taking your drags from. If you're sharing your hookah with anyone else, it's important you have mouthpieces to make sure everyone has a clean, safe experience. The quality of the hose itself is crucial, as well. Cheap hoses typically come with a metal lining on the inside, and after a couple of months of use, the lining begins to rust. Smoking out of a rusted hose means pulling rust into your lungs along with the shisha, which can be dangerous. To avoid rusty lungs, a good-quality silicone hose is the way to go.
Where Does the Hookah Come From?
Unlike more modern smoking trends, hookah dates back centuries and is a deeply cultural experience that equates to much more than simply smoking tobacco.
Hookah, as we know it today, dates back to 16th century India. At the time, smoking tobacco was a popular practice among the higher classes. This popularity – along with the glass exportation from the British East India Company – led to an attempt to purify smoke through water within a glass chamber, birthing the hookah. The hookah quickly became a symbol of upper nobility and was popular among noblemen for the status and appearance it gave off. A century later, hookah became a practice for everybody at any level in the social hierarchy. It quickly spread and soon became popular in 17th century Persia. The democratization of this smoking practice also embedded hookah into the service industry, not just the culture.
The migration of hookah continued into Turkey during the 18th century, where again it served as a symbol for status. Hookah was very popular among members of the high class and even served an important role in hospitality and diplomatic reunions. Hospitality and hookah became so intertwined that not offering a hookah to your guest could be considered an insult.
Moving into Egypt a century later, hookah took on its now treasured communal role. This is when Mu'Assel – a syrupy tobacco mix containing molasses and other ingredients – comes into play. The initial Egyptian flavors pioneered the way for the assorted smoke flavors enjoyed by hookah smokers today. Gradually, hookah became integrated into every level of society and promoted a sense of community transcending race, class and gender.
Over hundreds of years, hookah became a deeper and more intimate part of Indian and Middle Eastern cultures. It would then migrate to the rest of the world through immigrants originating from these countries. Immigrants bringing these traditions to all corners of the world have made hookah a mainstay in global culture.
How Do you Smoke A Hookah?
As you might expect from a practice so deeply rooted in culture and tradition, learning how to smoke a hookah is a specific process. Setting up your hookah for a session isn't difficult, but you must do it correctly and carefully to get your full enjoyment out of it.
Before you start, place your coals on a burner. This way, once you've got your bowl packed and your foil poked with holes, they'll be hot and ready to go. You can also use a heat management device (HMD) rather than foil placed directly on your shisha. You'll also want some tongs (unless you're unreasonably good at handling hot coals with your bare hands).
Once you've got your coals on the burner, you'll need to pack your bowl. There are various packing methods and countless video tutorials on each one. Just make sure the packing technique you pick goes well with the leaf you'll be smoking. You can use a dedicated packing fork to pack the shisha into your bowl, or you can use your hands if you don't mind getting them a little dirty.
Next, you've got to get your foil on your bowl. You can buy pre-cut foils, or you can cut your own from aluminum foil tubes. If you do make your own, make sure you're getting heavy-duty foil. If you're using coals by themselves, one layer of foil should do the trick. Wrap your foil over the top of the bowl, then using a poker, a toothpick or a thumbtack, poke some holes — two or three concentric circles with a hole in the middle work fine.
Once you've got foil on your bowl, and the bowl on your hookah, it's time to place those coals on top of the foil. Make sure they're nice and hot; about 10 minutes on the burner should be enough. Place them on the foil for a few minutes before you start pulling to make sure your bowl gets nice and hot and your pulls are great from the beginning.
Find Hookah Products at Free Smoke Vape Shop
Now that you know how to smoke hookah, Free Smoke Vape Shop is your go-to store for all the best hookah products. We have a wide variety of hookah pipes, shisha and accessories to get you started.
You can shop online or visit one of our Atlanta stores. Our staff are very knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions you may have, so browse the store and contact us if you need assistance.
We look forward to seeing you in one of our locations soon!