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Hookah Tobacco: What Is Hookah Tobacco?

Smoking hookah is a wonderful pastime to enjoy with friends. Smoking hookah is a relaxing and pleasurable tobacco smoking experience that connects you to the traditions of the Eastern world.

One of the many confusions that new hookah smokers have is what exactly is in hookah tobacco. A lot of novice smokers have no idea how hookah tobacco differs from the tobacco that you might find in a cigarette or cigar.

There are a few key differences that separate hookah tobacco from regular tobacco, and we here at MOB Hookah are ready to enlighten you.

Without further ado, here is a guide to hookah tobacco for novice and expert hookah smokers alike.

What Does It Mean To “Smoke Hookah?”

There are tons of misconceptions about what it means when you say you are smoking hookah. A lot of smokers, especially non-smokers and smokers in the Western world who don’t have experience with the tradition behind hookah, believe that hookah is the activity, or the tobacco that you are smoking.

Hookah is actually the name for the pipe that you are smoking out of. The whole apparatus is called a hookah.

Hookah is actually just derivative of the Hindustani word huqqa, which can mean vase or bottle, referencing the water basin at the bottom of your hookah that filters your hookah smoke. 

The name for the specific type of tobacco that is smoked from hookahs is called shisha. Some cultures also call their hookahs shishas, but in the West you will almost always hear “hookah” referring to the apparatus, and shisha referring to the tobacco.

What Is in Shisha?

So if shisha is the tobacco that you smoke out of a hookah, what makes it different from other kinds of tobacco?

While there are certainly chemicals and additives in cigarettes, when you smoke a cigarette you are mostly smoking straight tobacco that has been ground into a coarse powder. There are relatively few additives to cigarette tobacco (note the word relatively here, not none).

But when you smoke shisha, you are almost certainly smoking a flavored shisha. This means that your shisha may include tobacco, herbs, fruits, sugars, glycerin, and molasses. All of these elements combine to give you the sticky tobacco substance that you pack in the shisha bowl of your hookah.

When these elements are combined in the right ratios, you will get a shisha that smokes and has a strong flavor of fruit or other flavorings, depending on the flavor of shisha you have picked. The additives are also part of what helps hookah shisha burn longer than a cigarette, facilitating smoke sessions that can easily be an hour or longer if prepared right.

You can find hookah tobaccos that have honey in them as well, which also helps to mellow out the sometimes harsh flavor of straight tobacco.

Now that we know the basics of Shisha, we are ready to hop into the three different types of shisha tobacco. 

Blonde Leaf

Blonde leaf tobacco is the most common type of tobacco used for shisha. Blonde leaf tobacco may also be known as Virginia tobacco in the West, as Virginia was the first place blonde leaf tobacco was cultivated. Blonde leaf tobacco is so named because of the lighter, blonde leaves.

Blonde leaf tobacco has a very mild flavor and is pretty low in nicotine, making it a good call in hookah smoking to help users avoid excessive nicotine ingestion from long-lasting sessions. 

Dark Leaf

Dark leaf tobacco is a similar product to blonde leaf tobacco, the main difference being in the coloring. Dark leaf tobacco undergoes a special step in the curing process before air drying that results in a darker colored tobacco. 

This dark color gives dark leaf tobacco a stronger flavor than blonde leaf tobacco, but does not contain more nicotine. 

Both blonde and dark leaf tobacco are used to make wet shisha with molasses and/or honey, as well as other liquid ingredients that give the shisha its wet qualities.


Tombak comes from the Turkish word for tobacco, and it’s the only dry tobacco used for hookah smoking. 

Tombak does not traditionally get mixed with any flavorings and is smoked straight. Tombak is also known for its very high levels of nicotine. Tombak is a very traditional Turkish style of hookah smoking and often doesn’t involve using any foil or cloth to separate the coals from the tobacco in the bowl.

If you are a new smoker looking for an introduction to hookah smoking, you may be best to leave tombak for another day. If, on the other hand, you are a seasoned hookah smoker looking to branch out and try something new, give tombak a go, but perhaps consult a local expert to teach you.

Are There Shisha Options Without Nicotine?

If you are trying to quit smoking and avoid nicotine, or are new to hookah and want to avoid the nicotine in tobacco, you may feel a little left out of this conversation.

But you can get excited — there are nicotine-free options for shisha that smoke and taste great, and don't have the same kind of effects as smoking a shisha with nicotine. 

Herbal shisha is typically made with tea leaves, molasses, and glycerin, providing you a health-friendlier yet still-tasty hookah smoking experience. The molasses and glycerin give the herbal shisha white fluffy clouds, just like you would expect from normal shisha, so you can still get the sensation and sensory validation of smoking without having to take in any nicotine.

The only drawback there is to herbal shisha is that it will not have the same relaxing effects as a nicotine-containing shisha. Nicotine is the chemical ingredient that releases the signals in the brain for relaxation, and since herbal shisha is nicotine-free, you won’t get the same buzz.

But if you are trying to quit smoking, and want to still be able to enjoy the hookah experience without the same effects on health, herbal shisha can be a wonderful option for you!

How Should I Pick Hookah Tobacco?

If you are new to smoking hookah, then seeing all of these shisha options may give you a lot of confusion, and now you really may not know how to pick a shisha to smoke.

Don’t worry, there are a lot of options, but the good news is there are certainly no wrong answers on what shisha you should pick. You should start by choosing a shisha with a nicotine content you are comfortable with. Then you should grab a flavor or two that interest you. 

Remember, you can mix and match flavors in the same bowl, so get creative with your flavors; there are a ton of possible combinations to go with. 

We here at MOB Hookah have been obsessed with Starbuzz and their wide variety of flavors of high-quality shisha tobacco. With flavors like Sex on the Beach and Safari Melon Dew, you know that you are going to get some fun, exotic, and unique shisha flavors.

Starbuzz provides some of the highest quality shisha on the market, and that is what makes them one of our favorites at MOB Hookah. We offer dozens and dozens of flavor and size options to get you exactly what you need when it comes to Starbuzz shisha. 

Shisha Roundup

Now that we have reviewed everything, you should have a pretty firm grip on what Shisha is.

Shisha is the name for the type of tobacco smoked out of a hookah. Shisha consists of tobacco leaves, molasses, glycerin, herbs, and fruits that give Shisha a flavor and allow it to burn longer. Some Shisha contain chemical flavorings as well.

There are several different types of tobacco used in shisha, including light and dark leafed tobacco, and tombak. There is also herbal shisha, which contains tea leaves instead of tobacco leaves, providing a more health-conscious smoking experience, at the expense of no nicotine content for relaxation purposes.

There are no wrong choices when it comes to choosing a shisha that is right for you. Focus on quality, nicotine content, and delicious flavors. We at MOB Hookah recommend Starbuzz shisha for their high quality and fun flavors. 

So give hookah a try, and wow your friends with your newly earned shisha knowledge!



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