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Shisha tobacco is the most significant element of your hookah experience. The entire hookah, including the essential parts and the hookah accessories, is merely an apparatus to smoke shisha flavors. Take the shisha tobacco with all its rich flavors away and you are left with a smoking apparatus that is of little use.
The world of shisha tobacco has expanded by leaps and bounds. There weren’t a dozen flavors available in the country until two decades ago. Now, you can shop for hundreds of shisha flavors. While the list of flavors will keep growing, we will still have the humble tobacco as the base of all concoctions.
What is Shisha Tobacco?
Shisha tobacco is cured and processed leaves of a type of herbaceous plants in the genus Nicotiana. The scientific name of the plant is Nicotiana tabacum. The common name is tobacco. Yes, this is the same plant whose leaves are used as tobacco for cigarettes. However, the tobacco used in cigarettes or rolled up in papers is not the same as the type you find in shisha flavors. Let us delve deeper.
Shisha Flavors use Tobacco Leaves
There are many species of the tobacco plant. Nicotiana tabacum is the most widely grown and cultivated variety among around seventy species. There are further variants, such as Virginia tobacco, Brazilian tobacco, and others. Virginia tobacco has variants too. There is a dark leaf variety. Then there is the more commonly used golden or blonde leaf Virginia tobacco.
The leaves of the tobacco plant are the base of shisha flavors. Similar leaves are also the base of cigarette tobacco, but there are many differences in how they are processed and what kinds of ingredients are added to the mix.
Curing of Shisha Tobacco Leaves
There are two popular methods used for initial curing of tobacco leaves meant for shisha flavors. After the leaves are plucked from the plants, they are allowed to air-dry. Dark leaf tobacco is washed and rinsed if the nicotine content has to be reduced. Subsequently, it is air-dried. Blonde leaf tobacco does not require washing or rinsing as the nicotine content is already low compared to darker variants.
Washing, rinsing, and air-drying are common methods of curing at the beginning of the whole process. There may be other specific curing processes used by different manufacturers. Tobacco leaves have to be cured and processed to make the finished products. This is also applicable for the tobacco used in cigarettes.
Processing of Shisha Tobacco Leaves
The methods of processing vary, and so do the agents involved. Most manufacturers of shisha tobacco use molasses, honey, and glycerin. A company may use two or more of these processing agents. Some brands have their own special formulas but those too will contain molasses, honey, or glycerin.
These processing agents are basically used to moisten and sweeten the tobacco leaves. The tobacco used in cigarettes is dry. It can be easily lit, burned, and smoked. Shisha tobaccos are moister, primarily due to the processing with molasses, honey, and glycerin.
The processing agents help in retaining moisture. The tobacco leaves have reduced nicotine strength due to the blend. The shisha tobacco as a result is much milder and can be enriched with chosen flavors. The composition is also a reason why you cannot smoke shisha tobacco without a hookah or water pipe.
Flavoring of Shisha Tobacco
Cured and processed shisha tobacco is flavored using special ingredients. This flavoring process depends entirely on the intended product. The recipe dictates the flavors, from lemon to lime, apple to cinnamon, vanilla to menthol, orange to strawberry, and grape to menthol, among hundreds of other blends.
Manufacturers have their own recipes and types of extracts. Many companies use natural extracts. Some may use artificial ingredients to emulate the natural flavors. Unless mentioned, shisha tobacco does not contain any chemical, synthetic material, and preservative.
Cigarette vs. Shisha Tobacco
Finally, we must discuss the differences between shisha tobacco and cigarette, as well as the varieties used in dry pipe and rolling papers. The tobacco in a cigarette is one of around six hundred ingredients. In shisha flavors, tobacco is one of the fewer than ten ingredients. The other ingredients are molasses, honey, glycerin, flavor extracts, and other proprietary blends.
Rolling tobacco is as close to natural leaves you can get in an open market. Unlike cigarettes, rolling tobacco does not contain six hundred or so ingredients. It does contain some materials in addition to dried, cured, and processed tobacco leaves. Rolling and cigarette tobacco must be combusted or burned to be smoked. Shisha tobacco is heated using convection, not burned.