Hookah has been one of the hottest trends in social smoking for the last decade. Everyone from frat boys to Egyptian ex-pats love sitting down with a bowl. Using our guide, it’s possible to take your smoking one step further, and blend your own custom herbal shisha mixtures to enjoy.

Hookah History

Hookah is a single or multi-stemmed pipe, larger than most bongs, for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco called shisha. Shisha’s smoke is passed through a glass or metal water basin before inhalation. While it’s not necessarily healthier than smoking cigarettes, it’s most certainly more delicious.

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The waterpipe was either invented by an Irfan Shaikh of the Mughal Empire, or originates from the time of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, from which it eventually spread to the east into India. The hookah or “Argyleh” also soon reached Egypt and the Levant during the Ottoman dynasty from neighbouring Safavid dynasty, where it became very popular and where the mechanism was later perfected.

Making Shisha

In order to make your own shisha, you’ll need to read through the following steps. Before you get started, think about which herbal blends you’d like to try, and find a few seasonal fruits like apples, cherries, pears, plums, or mango to give your mix a pleasant flavor.

Ingredients & Ratios

Before you begin, you’ll need to gather the following ingredients:

  • Natural rolling tobacco
  • Fruit
  • Light molasses
  • Glycerine
  • Dry herbs or extracts

Once you’ve got your materials together, you’ll want to keep the following ratio in mind:

20% fruit by weight
80% tobacco and herbs by weight

1. Getting Started

Cut the fruit in quarters and core them if necessary. Then throw your fruit in a food processor if you have one, or just chop the hell out of it with a knife. You’re shooting for an even, finely diced consistency.

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Throw the fruit mixture into a medium saucepan and let it simmer until a good deal of moisture is cooked off. This part is somewhat subjective and you’ll have to play around with it to get it right. After you’ve cooked the fruit, let the mixture cool down.

2. Soak the Dried Tobacco and Herbs

It is now time to soak the dried tobacco to re-hydrate it, make it pliable and remove a little bit of the nicotine. The longer you soak it, the less flavor it will add to the final product, and the more nicotine will be taken out. Change the water every 30 minutes or so until you feel you’ve reached your desired level of washing. Modern style tobaccos like Starbuzz or Social Smoke wash and boil their tobacco until the water runs clear and no flavor is left behind. You too can strip the leaves of all character and flavor if you want to make sure your mango tobacco doesn’t smack of maduro.

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Any herbs you use should be re-hydrated in warm water for 30 minutes prior to moving on to the next step. Use just enough to cover the herbs, and strain off the excess water when time is up.

3. Process the Dried Tobacco and Herbs

If you are using whole leaves then you need to strip out the stems to avoid bitterness, overly high nicotine content and unpleasant flavors. You can do this by hand, but a sharp knife and a cutting board make a big difference. After the spines are stripped, bunch the tobacco up together, squeeze it into one block and cut it up with your sharp knife.
You can make it as course or as fine as you want.

4. Add Honey/Molasses and Flavorings

The ratio I use for molasses and honey is 3 to 1. For every 3 grams of tobacco I use 1 gram of molasses or honey. So 300 grams of dried tobacco takes about 100 grams of honey for my tobamel. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less depending on the style of tobacco and the type of flavoring. Mix the honey/molasses, all the flavorings you want to use and about 30g of glycerin per 300 grams of tobacco in a bowl and add the tobacco. Start light with the flavorings. Some of them are super strong. A tablespoon is all you need to start. Mix it up with wet hands and take a whiff. If it smells good put it in a Tupperware container to sit over night.

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If you want to take it to the next level you can bake the tobacco before adding the flavorings to help the glycerin and molasses/honey soak into the leaves. I like to wrap all of the tobacco, molasses, etc in tinfoil and bake it on “Warm” for an hour or so. If it’s not traditional moassel then that’s really all you need to get the juices flowing. Now add your flavorings and let it blend together overnight.

5. Wait Overnight

The next day, if the consistency seems right and it smells good, load up a bowl and smoke it. If it’s dry add some more of the honey or molasses. If you don’t like the flavor add some more until you get it right. It can take up to a week or more for the flavors to really mellow out and come together into their final form, so be patient.