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Romancing the Smoke: Smoking without foil

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!
Being a newcomer to the hookah community, I love sharing my new experiences, but sometimes I need you all to share your experiences with me. I've heard many differing opinions regarding smoking shisha without foil or a screen. Obviously there is the traditional dried tobacco leaves, know as Tombeik, Jurak, Zaghloul, etc., that is meant to be smoked with no intermediary layer between it and the coals. From what I understand, smoking Tombeik is a very different experience from the wet, sweet flavors of the shisha that most of us know.
However, I have recently heard that some hookah smokers enjoy a session of modern day shisha with the coal directly on top of the leaves. Say what?! That goes against everything I'd been told up to this point. Is this sacrilege? Or is it a brilliant method that just takes a little extra work, like Tangiers is? Most importantly, is it worth trying? I'm looking for your stories and advice - fire away!
For those of you wondering, this is apparently how it works. Seems plausible in theory, but it seems like the heat management would be tricky.

Step 1: Load your bowl with extra shisha.  This works best with wet shisha, such as Romman Shisha Tobacco or Fantasia Shisha Tobacco.  It should make a small dome in the middle of the bowl.

Step 2: Place your charcoal directly on the top of the pile.

Step 3: This step is absolutely crucial, DO NOT SMOKE IT for 10-15 Minutes. This time is left for the coals to cook the top layer of shisha. This is where that extra shisha comes in handy. The top layer is cooked into a charred “screen” of shisha – no metal screens or foils needed. (Note: this will produce more smoke coming from the bowl, so be sure to do this  in a well ventilated area or outdoors.)

Step 4: Puff at will.
If you all think it's worth a shot, then I will give it a try and report back. Until then, happy smoking! - Katie

Comments (22) -

  • I have never tried this with a wet shisha, only with blackleaf as you suggested but it works amazingly for blackleaf varieties and is very similar to the often used overpack method for packing and smoking nakhla.  Only advice I can offer is do not do it like that pic, use natural coals of course (it is even more important without the foil as it seems to taint the flavor of the tobacco even more once the foil is gone) and pay very close attention to heat management.
  • Try it, I'd like to know if this works well.
  • Yes please try it,tell me if its good to do with Starbuzz and Fantasia brands.Also I'd like to know what coals work best for this method to the quick lights or the all natural ones. Smile
  • More importantly, what do you do when the coal runs out? Can you add another? Can you move the coal around for heat management? Will it just stick to the charred shisha?
    So many questions!
  • Jon
    Please don't try this. Modern shisha is not meant to be smoked with this method and you are going to get messed up trying-
  • Joe
    I did this when I first picked up a hookah and it worked just fine. It was a long time ago, so I can't vouch for how good it was, but give it a try! now you've got me thinking I might try it again...
  • The original way everywhere was with wood coals on the shisha nothing else.  Only in modern times have people used tin foil as a screen.  This is stupid since aluminum is poisonous  and can release toxic fumes.  Narghiles(hookahs) developed at houses or camps with fireplaces a hot wood coal was cheap and effective,and is still safer than modern carbon charcoals.
  • I was introduced to this method a few years ago and was shocked that it actually worked.  I was smoking Romman Orange mixed with Mint.  I was certain that it would be realy harsh and gross, but was pleasantly surprised.  The smoke is a little more full bodied and has more tobacco flavor, but if you wait the 10 minutes it should not be harsh.
  • Ok I have been smoking shisha since the age of 15(currently 23) I have tried almost everything out there. This method is intended for Black tobacco that has aroma, for what purpose is an entirely different story that I do not intend on explaining. Wet shisha is not intended for methods like this unless you want a short session(as managing heat is extremely hard with thin foil let alone without any) and a nightmare making it smokeable with all the ash falling directly in tobacco. There was a person here responding to this saying that originally shisha was smoked without foil(And claimed that foil is poisonus:S) this is entirely true but originally shisha wasn't invented with flavoured tobacco, and since we are using modern tobacco we use modern methods to improve our sessions. Smoking shisha requires CORRECT heat management, this can be achieved with a million different ways and variations. For example thin foil small coals and a wind cover, or thin foil big coals no wind cover or thick foil big coals wind cover(you get the point by now) So my suggestion to every1 is have similar sized heads, use a brand of coals you like(suggest natural wood coals) and play around with the foil, the amount of coals and a windcover.
    I apologise for my long response but things like this are a big NO NO to my eyes and a waste of tobacco, its things like this that make a persons session bad enough to say that shisha sucks:/ anw gl
  • I have smoked shisha for 10+ years, and I've tried "no foil" with Al Fakher and Tangiers using natural wood coals- and would not recommend it.  I found there is no upside to the lack of foil.  Hookah tobacco is meant to be brought to a lower temperature than required for burning the leaf - more heat or direct heat causes harshness.  This will work for herbs, dried tobacco or dokha but you will lose a lot of smoke "up and out" of the bowl.  And the statement about the toxicity of hookah aluminum foil usage seems to be mostly unfounded - the temp required to release compounds in the metal are never reached in a hookah session. That being said, if YOU do it and like it then by all means enjoy!  Hookah is all about your pleasurable smoke experience.  Peace & Puffy Cloudz to you!
  • Seems like a waste of shisha, and you lose smoking time to warm up ... just to save on a small square of foil? This looks like an "emergency situation only", say if you have a party and there's not a piece of aluminum foil to be had for miles around. Interesting concept, but I don't think I'll be trying this.
  • Bad idea. Never have i smoked somthing so foul tasting.
  • This is the way narghiles are smoked in Lebanon. Their national pastime. They use plain natural tobacco and put charcoal on top. New coals are put on as needed. The Tobacco is made wet first then  squeezed dry then put on the head for the narghile covered with a tissue. Let to dry a little, then take off the tissue, put on the charcoal, and enjoyed. A lot of people smoke many times a day, instead of cigarettes.
  • I can't help but comment on "Obviously there is the traditional dried tobacco leaves, know as Tombeik, Jurak, Zaghloul, etc."

    Each of those are distinctly different things. Tombak is dried, lightly processed leaves that are then soaked in water and smoked without foil. Jurak is a loose classification of tobacco that is kind of like a sub-category of moassel with a lot of different characteristics. Zaghloul is a very specific black moassel from Nakhla. Jurak and Zag are not dried leaves and they are meant to be smoked with indirect heat. Traditionally this was done with a brass screen rather than foil, but the principal is the same. Tombak/tombeik/tombac is the only hookah tobacco meant to be smoked with direct heat.
    • Thanks for clarifying that for us, Paul!
  • I disagree. Traditionally speaking zaghloul is a very dry, unwashed tobacco with a very dark leaf taste, almost like smoking a maduro cigar. I'll admit I haven't tried tombeik or ajamy, but zaghloul pretty much only works if you're not using foil or a screen. Believe me, take a look around Egypt (you know, the places where they're not smoking hash) and you'll see an old dude on his fourth bowl of zaghloul, wood coals straight on top.
    Side note: zaghloul sucks. Don't get me wrong, the taste is pretty decent, but when you smoke zaghloul it puts a permanent damper on your hookah's ability to get good flavor on anything else.
  • This is a great way to smoke and when I'm by myself I love to do it. (With others they get impatient) If you are new to this I have a suggestion. Use a different shisha other than your favorite. You don't want ruin it trying to get the hang of it. Also with the juicier shishas I squeeze them to make them seem abit more liek a traditional dryer shisha. but for me I use this STRICTLY for Black Leaf shishas and, I also use it with Nakhla and Tombiek** - - (not for beginners its a little more rough than the SB and whatnot everyone seems to be used to but, once you are used to it its delicious.) Good luck, Happy smoking!
  • Rob
    err... i dont think anyone in the comments above me have traveled very much to places like egypt. where this is a very, very, common occurrence. in a cafe, you will more than likely be ordering Zaghloul. which is served with a very odd type of coal that was natural, but was originally a large ball, lit, and then mashed into  very very coarse powder, and spread over the bowl. they do the same with Nakhla... they also had self serve grills with coals in them, and a refill on the hookah was $.50 . definitely a different experience then i was used to in the states. all in all, i do it regularly, and compare it to the difference in smoking marlboro reds (without foil) and marlboro ultra lights (with foil)
  • M
    I'd say flavored tobacco smokes best without foil - treat pretty much like tambac - poke a narrow hole through the middle and enjoy, especially if you have real embers from a wood fire. Nice.

    Foil is not traditional. Try heating a bit with a lighter to see the fumes it gives off. If you must use it - you can avoid inhaling these by heating it with a lighter first.
  • I've always smoked shisha without foil or anything and I love it. I actually just tried smoking with foil and found much less smoke production. If you enjoy tons of tasty smoke, this is the way to go. However it is very very important to let the coal sit for a like 10 minutes because it will be pretty harsh and will make you cough. Laughing

  • This is a great idea! I've tried it today with iced water and it hits amazing! Good thing I didn't have foil!
  • This is the worst idea ever. I tried it because I didn't have any foil and I absolutely hated it. It's as if you are smoking the coal alone with no flavor at all. All you niggahs who say this is good yall got no taste buds and no fucking lungs.