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The Ultimate Guide To Different Types of Tobacco for Your Hookah or Shisha

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Hookah tobacco is a flavorful concoction of various ingredients. Also known as shisha tobacco, it isn’t the same stuff that is in cigarettes. However, there is one similarity, which is kind of the foundation of most hookah tobacco flavors. Let’s dive into the ultimate guide to hookah tobacco. 

Classic Hookah Tobacco

Broadly, there are two types of hookah tobacco used to make the distinct shisha flavors. These are classic hookah tobacco and herbal shisha flavors. Classic hookah tobacco is a conventional blend of processed nicotiana leaves with one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Glycerin
  • Honey
  • Molasses

Over the years, classic or conventional shisha tobacco flavors have evolved to include various other ingredients, including but not limited to the following:

  • Fruits
  • Herbs
  • Spices

These ingredients are used in the form of extracts. However, all such ingredients are for flavors, texture, etc. The primary material used in classic hookah tobacco is nicotiana leaves. The type of tobacco leaves used to make a hookah or shisha flavor determines its characteristics.

All conventional hookah tobacco flavors using nicotiana leaves are of two types: blonde leaf and dark leaf.

Blonde Leaf Shisha Tobacco

Blonde leaf shisha tobacco is the classic or traditional variant used in the making of modern hookah flavors. But a nicotiana plant’s leaves aren’t naturally blonde or shades of orange. The blonde color is a result of processing harvested tobacco leaves.

Fresh tobacco leaves are washed extensively to eliminate the nicotine content. This processing leads to the tobacco leaves developing a kind of blonde color. These washed leaves are dried and processed further. Such processes bring about the rich blonde color of shisha tobacco.

Although blonde leaf shisha tobacco is washed, not all nicotine is lost in the process. The leaves may retain some traces of nicotine, which is why you will find many blonde leaf shisha tobacco flavors stating a tiny percentage. Those without nicotine advertise 0% or nicotine-free.

In order for blonde leaf tobacco to be completely free of nicotine, hookah or shisha flavor brands process the leaves even more than the initial washing. Also, there are other methods of curing and drying washed tobacco leaves to eliminate as much nicotine as possible.

Eventually, these tobacco leaves have little to no nicotine, which become the base for the 0% nicotine shisha or hookah flavors. Blonde leaf tobacco has been the more popular choice for hookah flavors due to the low to no nicotine content. However, that wasn’t always the case. 

Dark Leaf Shisha Tobacco

The earliest hookahs were designed to smoke tobacco, not special shisha flavors. So, that type of tobacco was essentially dark leaf. Harvested tobacco leaves will turn brownish and eventually dark after drying thoroughly. There was no washing involved over the centuries.

In the modern hookah scene, dark leaf tobacco wasn’t the preferred option because of the high nicotine content. But there has been a change in popular preferences. People looking for a bit bolder or stronger hookah tobacco flavor are opting for dark leaf tobacco nowadays.

The initial washing that is fundamental to blonde leaf tobacco isn’t involved in the processing of dark leaf variants. However, dark leaf tobacco is also infused with glycerin, honey, molasses, and other ingredients to make the eventual hookah or shisha flavors that you are familiar with.

To put things simply, dark leaf tobacco is bolder or stronger due to the high nicotine content. No dark leaf shisha tobacco flavor has 0% nicotine, but a particular brand’s concoction may have a little or a lot less nicotine content than the hookah flavors of other companies.

In comparison, a blonde leaf shisha tobacco flavor may be free of nicotine. Apart from nicotine, blonde leaf tobacco has a few compatibility advantages over dark leaf because it can suit more blends and flavors. The boldness of dark leaf tobacco prevents it from working with every flavor.

That said, both blonde and dark leaf tobacco variants work with many of the same ingredients. You will find both types of tobacco working with mint, for example. The flavor profiles of the two will be different, of course.

Herbal Hookah Tobacco

Unlike classic hookah tobacco, whether blonde leaf or dark leaf, herbal shisha flavors don’t use nicotiana leaves. Instead, herbal hookah tobacco is essentially based on one or more of these ingredients:

  • Real fruits
  • Sugarcane fiber
  • Tea leaves

While classic hookah tobacco uses real fruit extracts for flavoring, herbal shisha flavors can use pulps and other processed forms of popular fruits as the base. Likewise, tea leaves are a fitting alternative to nicotiana or tobacco leaves, whether blonde leaf or dark leaf.

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