How To: Earn a Degree in Shisha Mixology
This blog has been updated as of May 9th, 2022
Everyone has their own favorite shisha flavors that could never be turned down if offered to you and always stay stocked in your cabinet. From time to time we want to see if we can take these flavors to the next level by adding a new component, these new additions can make your mix sweet, spicy, or just minty. You can tailor each mix to your taste buds, or follow recipes offered by trained hookah enthusiasts (hey how's it going).
The great thing about mixing is that you get a chance to create extremely unique flavors, but you can't just dive into this new world without a broad knowledge of the tobacco of choice, and flavor profiles. As long as you follow the tips below, you'll have a degree in Shisha Mixology in no time from the fine institute of Hookah-Shisha University. (Still working on a mascot)
Step 1 - KNOW YOUR SHISHA
Before we just start throwing shisha into a bowl and calling it a mix, you must understand the tobacco itself as many brands have unique traits. Let's start off with something like Tangiers for example. Most of us know that there is a different packing process for Tangiers than traditional shisha tobacco, so mixing this with something like Social Smoke may be a little complicated.
For your beginning stages of mixing, stick to brands that offer similar leaves and packing methods, like Starbuzz/Social Smoke or Fumari/Haze. Surely you could smoke Tangiers mixed with a little bit of Social Smoke, but over time the leathery tobacco notes in Tangiers would overpower the light notes in Social Smoke.
Looking beyond the visual aspects of the tobacco, you must understand that each brand has different heat requirements. For example, the amount of heat that you would use in your Al Fakher session would be completely different compared to the amount of heat Haze tobacco requires for a full-flavored smoke.
When you want to start using shisha flavors that have completely different heat requirements, try placing them in their own quadrant in the bowl instead of mixing them together - or simply place them on the bottom layer. Later on, we will talk about advanced mixing, but I think I can see the light bulbs starting to turn on for some of you guys, so we're going to move on to some more important info.
Step 2 - Choose Your Flavors, But Start Off Small
Besides knowing what type of tobacco to use, understanding flavor profiles, as well as your own palate, is going to be extremely important when it comes to making your own custom shisha mix. But if you're just getting started in the wide world of shisha, discovering the flavors you enjoy can involve a significant amount of trial and error. For this reason, we recommend starting with the smaller flavor sizes, like a 50g box or 100g tin, before committing to larger 250g or 1000g sizes.
Starting small allows you to sample a variety of flavors without paying for a giant tub of flavor you hate and will never smoke again. We recommend checking out our Ultra Pack of Al Fakher 50g boxes for a way to try the widest variety of flavor profiles and really learn which types of shisha you love to smoke. Once you find flavors or profiles that you enjoy, then you can start buying them in larger sizes.
Speaking of flavors, we know that you can find the good ol' basic flavors like Grape, Orange, Cherry, and Mint from all of our favorite brands, but why do so many versions of these flavors exist across different brands? It brings us back to the previous statement, every brand is different and should be treated that way in the mixing process.
When you find the first flavor that you want to mix with, take a deep look into this flavor and decide what flavors you want to bring out, or add-on, with this new mix. Let's take Cocojumbo from Starbuzz for example, this flavor offers a nice coconut and lime taste but you may want more citrus in this smoke or maybe more mint. Choosing a citrus flavor like orange or lemon will pair nicely with the lime already in Cocojumbo, you can even throw in a little mint to cool off the citrus tones.
If you are wanting to add any mint to a bowl make sure you know what type of mint you're working with. Some mints offer a fresh taste, others could give you a cream taste, and some even offer an ICE COLD cooling effect. Adding mint to Cocojumbo is a nice addition but if we wanted to kill 2 birds with one stone, choose a citrus mint because you will be able to achieve a little more citrus while using a mint that pairs perfectly with the coconut and lime, plus you'll save on shisha.
Understanding and using this type of knowledge can help you avoid making bad mixes. Just take your time and think about it - and have fun of course!
Pro Tip: If you have the flavors that you want to mix in hand, open both cans and smell them at the same time, it's like a preview for the smoke.
Step 3 - Mixing Options
You are in the driver's seat on how this new flavor plays out when it comes to smoking, for example having your mint loaded on the top will be a different smoking experience compared to putting mint on the bottom. Take a look at some of the mixes that you have made in the past - you've probably used the side-by-side loading method or a layering pack method. We can go beyond this and make incredible blends by using a little bit of pre-mixing and flavor-focused packing.
Wait, what is flavor-focused packing? Let's say you want a little bit of mint in the bowl, and you sprinkle your mint shisha on the top of the bowl before applying your tin foil or heat management device. That only makes up about 10% of your mix and it can get lost or unnoticed with the other 90%, so let's focus on this one flavor to make sure it pops in our bowl.
If you are using a phunnel bowl or any bowl with a single air channel, choose your focus flavor and load it around the spire only, this will guarantee that the flavor doesn't get lost and it's at the forefront of each pull. The same can be done for an Egyptian-style bowl or any bowl with air channels on the underside, simply place your focus flavor over the air channels.
We aren't using too much of this focus flavor, so expect the overall flavor of the bowl to change midway and bring out the more abundant flavors in your bowl. We call that the flavor-changing bowl, like a Gobstopper.
The other side of the spectrum when you're making a new mix is something called a "premix", and with the right flavors, you can drastically change some of your favorite mixes. For this example, we will use Tangiers.
If we wanted to make a unique floral blend with a little lemon, we could use Lemon Blossom, Hibiscus, and Lemon. This could be done in three parts equally - placed in the bowl or layered - but the lemon has a little bit of a stronger flavor profile and we don't want it to overpower the other floral tones.
For this mix, take some of your Lemon - probably around 20% - and blend it with the lemon blossom at 30% before actually placing it in the bowl. Once you have this new Lemon-Lemon Blossom mixed then you can place it in your bowl side by side or layered. Remember you're in the driver's seat so find your preference and have fun with it.
Step 4 - Practice!
We hope that this has been a great learning experience for you, but remember that the hookah game involves some trial and error. Even us experts mix some bad bowls from time to time, but hey, they can't ALL be winners. As long you can approach your sessions with a solid understanding of your flavors and a healthy sense of curiosity, every session can be a great experience and you can begin to impress your friends with some of your favorite blends!
If any of these tips have helped you let us know in the comments below, also we are always looking for new mixes to try, so leave us some of your favorite mixes they may become a featured mix on the website.