A Beginner’s Guide to Hookah Shisha Tobacco

A Beginner’s Guide to Hookah Shisha Tobacco


There is a common misconception among a lot of people, including many who have been smoking hookah or shisha for a considerable period of time. This misunderstanding stems from a wrong translation of the two terms: hookah and shisha. These two words basically have the same implication. Hookah literally means water pipe. Shisha literally means glass.

Juxtaposing the two meanings, we have what can be referred to as a smoking apparatus comprising a glass fixture, which is the hookah base that houses the water, and a pipe, also known as stem or shaft. Shisha does not mean tobacco, nor does hookah. Whenever we talk about flavors that are smoked in a hookah or shisha, these have to be referred to as tobacco. In other words, what you smoke is hookah or shisha tobacco. The apparatus is the hookah, whose alternate term is shisha.

What is Hookah or Shisha Tobacco?

Simply put, hookah or shisha tobacco is a combination of the leaves of certain Nicotiana plants and extracts of different kinds. Genus Nicotiana in the Solanaceae family is the broader cluster of various kinds of tobacco plants. The leaves of tobacco plants, and in rare cases shrubs, are used in all kinds of smoking products, from cigarettes and cigars to the source of nicotine in e-liquids, concentrates and others. These leaves are also used to make shisha tobacco.

There are a few facts you should know about tobacco plants to understand the primary source of your hookah or shisha flavors. There are more than seventy species of tobacco plants. Most are not widely grown, cultivated, or used. Only a few of these species are cultivated and there are many variants, largely depending on the climate, growing conditions, and the quality of the leaves. In the context of hookah or shisha tobacco, you must know two types of leaves that are used.

Dark Leaf & Blonde Leaf Tobaccos

Whether we talk about Virginia tobacco or Burley tobacco, most leaves can be subjected to different types of washing, processing and curing. Virginia tobacco tends to be lighter than Burley leaves. However, both can be treated in distinct ways. The obvious difference between dark leaf and blonde leaf tobaccos is evident in the naming, but there is more to them.

Dark leaf tobacco is unwashed. Blonde leaf tobacco is washed. Dark leaf tobacco has more nicotine than in blonde leaf tobacco, partly due to their compositions and also as a result of washing of the latter. Both dark leaf and blonde leaf tobaccos are cured. The curing usually involves molasses, honey, glycerin, a combination of agents, or some proprietary formula of a manufacturer. Only after tobacco leaves are cured and processed do they get infused with flavorful extracts. There could be an additional infusion of honey, molasses, or glycerin, to attain a certain degree of moisture and juiciness in the final product.

Flavors in Hookah or Shisha Tobacco

Both dark leaf and blonde leaf tobaccos are cured to varying extents, and then flavorful extracts are infused or blended. These extracts could be from fruits, herbs, shrubs, flowers, spices, and other natural or partly synthesized materials. There can be one or more extracts used in a flavor, depending on the chosen formula of a manufacturer.

Hookah or shisha flavors use tobacco leaves as the base. Honey, glycerin, molasses, and other curing agents are used in processing, as well as to add moisture, sweetness, juiciness, and texture, to the tobacco leaves extracts. Finally, it is the flavorful extract, or more than one in many cases, that makes the product what people love to smoke.

Types of Hookah or Shisha Tobacco

All shisha flavors can be classified into three categories: dark leaf, blonde leaf, and herbal tobacco. The latter doesn’t actually contain any tobacco leaves, and hence there is no nicotine. Dark leaf is stronger than blonde leaf tobacco, and also has a rich texture, more nicotine, and a bolder taste. The further classification of hookah or shisha tobacco is based on its flavor. This has dozens of categories.

One glimpse of the inventory at a popular store and you will find hundreds of hookah or shisha tobacco flavors. From apple to watermelon, blueberry to vanilla, chai to kiwi, lavender to mango, there are almost all types of flavors you can ask for.

Herbal shisha flavors use tea leaves or fibers of different kinds of plants as the base material, instead of tobacco. Like tobaccos, herbal hookah or shisha flavors can also have the same variety of options.

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