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Get Your Best Hookah Experience

Get Your Best Hookah Experience

By double allen / March 8, 2023
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When you invest in something you’re passionate about, you only want the best of the best right? If you’re less than familiar with a hobby that you want to dig into, it can be intimidating. I see this too often with hookah. Hookah is an amazing, cultural piece of history that some get shy with or afraid of after just a couple of tries. Hookah is an artform that is best learned by experience. It’s not a “plug and play” type of hobby per-say.

It doesn’t have to be complicated though. At Hookah-Shisha we don’t want it to be. When you purchase a hookah set up from us we want it to be as simple as possible to get smoking right out of the box. We also want you to have the most enjoyable hookah experience! Here are some simple points to get you started or heighten your hookah lifestyle.


Step One: Determine Your Hookah Goals

  • What are you looking for in a hookah?
  • Do you like more traditional styles of more modern? 
  • Is there a specific size that fits your needs?
  • Are you going for tobacco shisha or non-tobacco, herbal shisha?
  • Smoking solo? or is it a ‘gather everyone up’ type of ritual for you?

Hookahs

Many of the hookahs you will see in hookah lounges are traditional, like those from Khalil Mamoon. Becoming more popular are modern hookahs from brands like MYA Saray, Amira/BYO, Starbuzz, etc. 

Diagram  of hookah parts

Traditional style hookahs consist of a base, a stem, a hose, tray, and bowl. The stems on these styles of hookahs are usually one piece without many removable pieces except for the purge valve. Modern styles of hookahs obviously still have the same basic components but their stems may break down into several pieces allowing the option to add additional hose ports, compact storage and easier portability.

With traditional style hookahs, the base and stem connect with a rubber base grommet. While this may be the same case with some modern hookahs, other modern hookah brands may have a threaded or ‘click-to-lock’ type of connection, eliminating the need for a base grommet.

Various styles of hookahs

After deciding on the style of hookah you’re looking for, aesthetics and size then come into play. Traditional hookahs will have classic designs, handmade etched decorations, and usually a handful of color options in the stem and base. Modern versions of hookahs tend to have a larger variety of colors in the stem and base, various stem styles, many different types of materials for all components, and more customization options. 

Lastly, consider the size of the hookah. Hookahs over 24” in height usually sit on the floor and tend to stay at home. Anything less than 24” makes for a great tabletop hookah for gaming, movies, and social events. If you’re specifically looking for a portable, on-the-go hookah you may be looking for something like the Invi Nano or the Sheeshaya Hazard.

You can find more in depth details on buying a hookah in our guide here.

Shisha

Figuring out what type of shisha you’re looking for is one of the first things you should consider after choosing your hookah. After choosing tobacco or non-tobacco shisha, break your options down into fruity, aromatic, or minty. From there you can go further into categories like citrus, floral, coffee, and more. 

Next, consider blonde and dark leaf shisha styles. You want an easy smoke that anyone can get behind? You’re probably looking for a blonde leaf shisha. You want a bigger buzz, go dark leaf.

50g boxes of shisha tobacco

A helpful point to consider if you’re just starting out is to go with smaller sizes. A lot of brands, like Al Fakher, Zomo, Social Smoke, and Adalya offer 50g sizes which are great to begin sampling different flavor profiles. Other brands like Fumari, Othmani, and Starbuzz offer 100g sizes if you’re feeling more confident in what you may enjoy. When you find a flavor profile that hits just right, you can get into the 250g or kilogram sizes.


Step Two: What Are You Smoking in Your Hookah?

You’ve determined your shisha type. How are you treating it? If you’re smoking a blonde leaf shisha then you get a lot of play when it comes to bowl styles, heat management devices, foil or no foil, bowl loading style, etc. Most hookah smokers start in this category. If you’re on the dark leaf train [insert Darth Vader breathing] then you need to consider this when choosing bowls and hookah charcoal.

Blonde leaf shisha tobacco loose

Blonde leaf shisha tobacco is very forgiving. You can generally use it in any style of hookah bowl with any style of hookah charcoal. Brands that most hookah smokers start with in this category are Al Fakher, Starbuzz, Fumari, Fantasia, and Social Smoke. There are plenty more and each brand has a wide variety of flavor options!

Note: Although the category is named “blonde”, some brands may have shisha that appears red, and this is due to the ingredients used during production. “Blonde” strictly pertains to the type of tobacco leaf being used.

Dark leaf shisha tobacco loose

Dark leaf shisha tobacco options are made from a different type of unwashed tobacco, providing more nicotine and thus a more prominent buzz. This category of shisha tobacco also tends to have more of a robust, underlying earthy flavor tone from the tobacco leaves themselves. When smoking dark leaf shisha you’ll most likely need to use a phunnel style bowl as dark leaf shisha, like Tangiers, performs better with a dense packing method. This is more easily achievable with a phunnel bowl.

We’ve put together a detailed breakdown of the differences between blonde and dark leaf shisha tobacco, as well as a guide on the different types of hookah bowls, for further reading.


Step Three: Loading Up Your Hookah Bowl for Clouds for Flavor

Remember when I mentioned “hookah is an artform”? This is where that statement comes into play. Assembling a hookah of any style is pretty simple. Where the magic happens is when you load the shisha into your bowl and start to manage your heat with your charcoal. Together, these two components are what separate a mediocre hookah from a great hookah experience.

How to load a hookah bowl is a skill that is developed and finessed over time. The basic principles are knowing what type of shisha you are smoking, blonde or dark, and how long of a smoke session you are planning to have (smaller bowl = shorter smoking time). After a few bowls of “practice”, and maybe some trial and error, you’ll soon find yourself figuring out the way you like to load and maintain your hookah bowls. That’s what is great about hookah; there is no one-correct-way to do things. Your ‘fluff pack’ may be lighter than someone else, and your ‘dense pack’ may be REALLY dense.

This same philosophy applies to your heat management with your charcoal. Generally, one to three pieces of charcoal are used on a hookah bowl at a time - depending on the size of your bowl and the type of hookah charcoal you are using. Just as with loading your shisha, your personal preference matters here as well. I tend to enjoy my hookah bowls a little hot, so I tend to add an extra piece of coal.

Pro-Tip: If you have natural hookah charcoals in the ‘flat’ style in your collection, you can ‘stonehedge’ them. This means placing them on their side - essentially like having ‘half’ of a coal. For quicklight charcoal, you can easily break them into halves for the same effect.


Step Four: Kick It Up a Notch with Upgrades

Once you’ve become familiar with your hookah set up, fine tuned your bowl loading method, and have clouds rolling, it doesn’t have to stop there! There are a few options to lift your hookah experience to another level. 

Heat Management Devices

Various hookah heat management devices

If you started out with foil for your hookah bowls you may consider upgrading to a Heat Management Device aka an “HMD”. The purpose of an HMD is to replace the foil typically used for a hookah bowl and provide a more controlled heat source for your shisha. There are many different types of HMDs and many different types of HMD compatible hookah bowls. Be sure to double check the hookah bowl you want to use will be compatible with the HMD you want. Something as simple as an Amira/BYO Coal Tray or AO Badcha Coal Tray can make a difference for heat management. This also goes for the very simplistic HookahJohn Flavor Saver.

Cooling Accessories

Different styles of hookah ice hose mouthpieces

If you’re looking for an ultimate, cooling smoke session then you should check out our blog about cooling hookah smoke. For some, a minty or menthol shisha blend hits the spot. For others, getting the coldest smoke possible is the goal. Adding ice to your base is one, simple way to start along this path. Adding an ice chiller mouthpiece like the AO Bazooka or the Mystique Ice Hose Tip takes your smoke even further down in temperature.

Hookah Diffusers

Various styles of hookah diffusers

There are a couple of basic reasons to use a hookah diffuser. If you’re a gamer, enjoy having a hookah while you watch your favorite show or movie, or if you own a larger hookah that rumbles deep into the core of the earth, then maybe a diffuser will help you out. Hookah diffusers are attached to the downstem of your hookah (the piece that goes down into the water inside your hookah base) to distribute the air into smaller bubbles. This quiets the rumble of the bubbling water, and some claim it makes the smoke ‘smoother’.

Wind Covers

Various types of hookah wind covers

An old-school tool and much overlooked accessory, wind covers are a very handy tool to add to your hookah arsenal. Wind covers are used for…you guessed it…to protect your hookah bowl from drafts or breezes. Based on that statement most assume that hookah wind covers are only intended to be used when smoking hookah outdoors on a patio. However, wind covers can be used to squeeze the last bit of heat from a round of coals until your new ones are lit. It’s always a great idea to have a hookah wind cover on hand.


Step Five: Cleaning & Maintenance

It’s step five, but it should be near the top of your list. Just as with any other hobby, taking good care of your equipment makes all the difference. You can find a comprehensive cleaning guide for your hookah here. Basically, the more you care for your hookah components the longer they will care for you.

  • Clean your hookah after every smoke session. Rinse your base out, rinse your washable hose, run warm water through your stem, and carefully wash your hookah bowl.
  • Let all components dry before your next smoke session.
  • Make sure that your shisha and your charcoal are being stored properly.

Simple right? Just be sure to not skip maintaining your hookah gear. If you don’t take proper care of your hookah and accessories you may run into avoidable issues like ‘flavor ghosting’, corrosion, dried out shisha, or coals that have been tampered with humidity.


Following these five basic principles of hookah will allow you to have the best possible experience of being a hookah owner. Understanding what style of hookah you want to own, the shisha you want to smoke, and how to treat your shisha are the basics. Elevating your hookah setup with upgrades can take you to the next level. Never forget, cleaning and maintenance is just as important as all of the above.

If you ever find yourself confused, we’re here! Reach out to our Customer Service Team with your questions. We are here to spread the joy of hookah and ensure that your experience is top notch. Don’t get discouraged, ask questions!

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