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Hookah charcoal is the fuel you need to light up and heat your shisha tobacco. Before we delve into the various types of hookah charcoal available in the market, let us emphasize that the material is not coal. Many people, including those who have been consuming hookah for a long time, use the two terms interchangeably. Coal is a form of carbon, so is charcoal. But, coal is not charcoal and vice versa.
What is Hookah Charcoal?
Hookah charcoal is an amorphous form of carbon, a porous solid substance that is produced by heating organic matter in an apparatus where there is no air. The organic matter may be wood, coconut, bone, or a combination of many materials. Hookah charcoal comes in many shapes and sizes. They also have distinct properties, and obviously varying degrees of heat generating capability.
Purpose of Hookah Charcoal
The utility of hookah charcoal is quite simple. It is the source of heat or fire for your shisha tobacco. You light up a piece or two of hookah charcoal, place it atop the aluminum wrap around the clay bowl, wait for convection to do its thing, and then you can draw flavorful vapor cooled by the water in the base of your shisha.
Types of Hookah Charcoal
All hookah charcoals can be classified into two types. One is quick lighting charcoal. The other is normal charcoal. Quick lighting charcoal is so named or classified because it has the ability to get lit in very little time and with a relatively milder source of fire. You can use a cigarette lighter to light quick lighting charcoal. Normal charcoal takes longer to ignite. You will need special lighters or a more sustainable source of fire to have the charcoal exposed to enough flame, so it gets ignited. Quick lighting charcoal is of two types. Normal charcoal, which is also known as natural hookah charcoal, is also of two types. There are other variants, but these four in both categories are the most popular and widely available options.
Quick Lighting Hookah Charcoals
Quick lighting hookah charcoal is shaped like small discs or pucks. These are usually black in color. There is a distinct variety that is known as silver hookah charcoal. Black quick lighting charcoal is not unnatural or artificial. The organic matter that has been turned into charcoal is simply coated with a chemical. This chemical serves as a catalyst, or accelerant, which makes it easier and faster to be ignited. Since there is a chemical involved, quick lighting hookah charcoal tends to burn faster and there is a somewhat inorganic taste, as well as odor. Such type of charcoal is black when you light it, then it turns red due to the fire or heat, finally the material turns grey and white.
Silver hookah charcoal is also a quick lighting variant. It is a hybrid actually, a midway between natural and quick lighting charcoals. This type of hookah charcoal is not shaped like disc or puck. It is usually a cube or cuboid. The silver film coating serves as the catalyst or accelerant. Like black quick lighting charcoal, silver coated hookah charcoal can also be ignited rather easily and quickly using a regular lighter. Silver film coated hookah charcoal is often considered to be a better option than the black quick lighting variants. This is owing to a moderate synthetic aroma and taste. The side effects of the accelerant are more subtle or subdued. Users should wait till the silver film wears off as the charcoal fires up before placing it atop the foil on a clay bowl.
Natural Hookah Charcoals
The most popular natural hookah charcoal is made from coconut. The husks of coconuts are compressed. These are then further processed to produce charcoals. Such natural hookah charcoal comes in interesting shapes and sizes. They are available as cubes, flats, discs, pucks, and others. There is no chemical accelerant or synthetic catalyst. Hence, this charcoal takes a while to get ignited. However, there is no artificial odor or taste. This natural hookah charcoal does not interfere with or influence the flavor of the shisha tobacco. Natural charcoal made from coconut husks is also more sustainable and lasts longer.
The other natural hookah charcoal is made from wood. The sources usually are bamboo, lemon wood, orange wood, and others. These charcoals are usually longer than wider. They are like sticks or fingers. You would also find chunks or cubes. Natural wood charcoal for hookahs does not contain any chemical accelerant or synthetic catalyst. It smells organic and does not have much influence on the flavor of the shisha tobacco you may use. You would need a special heater or lighter to ignite natural wood or coconut hookah charcoal.