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Romancing The Smoke: A Beginners Guide to Loading the Perfect Hookah Bowl

Romancing The Smoke: A Beginners Guide to Loading the Perfect Hookah Bowl

By Katie / May 21, 2012
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If you're just tuning in to Romancing The Smoke, this is a blog following my journey to becoming a hookah know-it-all. If you're also a beginner, or a pro who wants to offer some advice, then I hope you'll follow along!
 
I decided that the best way to kick off this hookah education was to...smoke a hookah! Luckily, working at a hookah company, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a smoking sensei.I got together with Hookah Master Scott and told him to drop some knowledge on me - I wanted to know what was the most essential part of a successful hookah session. Hookah Master Scott assumed the lotus position, and with a face taut with wisdom he said: “Sometimes, when starting a journey, one must begin at the top of the mountain.”
 
Loosely translated, Master Scott was trying to tell me that preparing an A+ bowl is the key ingredient to attaining the best taste, the best smoke plumage, and just the best possible hookah experience. Up the mountain we go! Before we start with the bowl, go ahead and start heating your coals. This process will take about 15 minutes. For the average hookah, you’re going to need 2-4 coals, depending on your preference. There are two main kinds of hookah coals - quick light coals (which can leave an odd taste, but are very convenient) and natural coals. Master Scott suggested that we use Coco Nara Natural Hookah Charcoal; clean burning coal made from compressed cononut shells.
You can use a conventional oven stovetop to heat them, just place them directly on a burner set to ‘high’. Flip them once during the 15 minutes, they are done when the entire coal is lightly covered in gray ash. While that’s heating, let's go to the bowl. The bowl is the piece that is on the very top of the hookah, this is where you will load your shisha and will place your coals.
Once you’ve selected your shisha tobacco (a process that we’ll explore soon), take your washed and dried bowl and fill it with shisha until there is just a small space between the tobacco and the rim. You can use a shisha fork or another instrument to do this, since the shisha is very sticky, but generally it’s done by hand. It is important not to pack the shisha tight, it should be loosely arranged so that air can move throughout the bowl and maintain an even heat level. Next you’re going to place your metal hookah bowl screen over top of the bowl. If you don’t have a screen, then hookah foil will also work. Make sure that the foil is laid tight around the mouth of the bowl. When using hookah foil, you have to poke tiny holes in the foil to allow for the coals to evenly heat the shisha. Take a small pin and poke holes all across the tautly laid foil, making sure that there are plenty holes and that they’re evenly distributed. Hookah Bowl
 
Woo hoo! You’ve got yourself a loaded bowl! Now pop that baby onto your hookah, use your coal tongs to grab your coals from the stove (don’t forget to turn it off!) and place them evenly across the top of the foil. Sometimes it helps to heat up an additional coal and place it in your tray just in case you need to add a little extra heat during your session. I sat down with Master Scott, both of us in the lotus position this time, with the hookah between us. Before he handed me the hose, he closed his eyes and said, “A journey of a thousand hookahs begins with a single puff.”
 
Until next time, happy smoking! -Katie
 
To see tutorial videos on this subject, and others, check out our How-To Playlist on YouTube!
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