Just as there are different types of hookah tobacco, there are also several different types of charcoal. The first rule of hookah charcoal is always to use charcoal specifically designed for hookahs, never use barbecue charcoal for your hookah.
Barbecue charcoal, when compressed, can release several harmful chemicals which should not be inhaled, whereas good quality hookah charcoal should contain no added chemicals.
Good hookah charcoal should have several qualities, ideally it should be easy to light, and once lit should burn very hot and for a long period of time. Better quality charcoal is usually packaged in foil for freshness and won’t affect the taste of your smoke.
To achieve the most satisfying smoke, try to keep your charcoal hot especially if you are smoking for longer than half an hour. You may have to add more charcoal to keep the smoke thick and add more flavor to your tobacco. Always make sure your charcoal is completely lit.
Most Middle Eastern cafes and serious hookah smokers use charcoal made from lemon wood. This type of charcoal, considered the authentic thing by connoisseurs, does take longer to light, but once lit will last longer and provide a fuller flavor.
One fairly recent trend in hookah smoking is the so called fast lighting charcoal which is something of a fire hazard as lighting it usually creates sparks. This type of charcoal usually also contains higher levels of nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide than regular charcoal.
Pure Hookah, Natural Wood Charcoal
When opting to enjoy a more pure hookah experience, use natural wood hookah charcoal. There are several types of natural wood charcoal available in today’s market for you to choose between. The most popular type of natural wood charcoal is Japanese charcoal. Other popular options include lemonwood charcoal, orangewood charcoal, and olivewood charcoal.
Most natural wood charcoals burn for a longer period of time than charcoals that have metallic properties. This will save you time and money as you enjoy your hookah experience. This variety of hookah charcoal also tends to be cleaner burning, which is a boost to your own health as well as to the environment around you. Natural wood charcoals may be harder to light, however, and so instead of matches, may need to be held over a candle or gas burner. One type of hookah charcoal made of natural wood, called Japanese charcoal, is coated in silver to enable faster lighting.
Lemonwood, orangewood and olivewood charcoal are favored by many hookah enthusiasts both for their all natural properties but also for the pleasant odors they leave behind and add to the odor of the hookah tobacco. Lemonwood and orangewood charcoal leave behind pleasant citrus smells. Olivewood leaves behind a more subtle smell, blending quite nicely with hookah tobacco.
Because natural wood charcoal is not processed, the pieces of coal tend to be uneven in shape and size. Depending on the size of your hookah pipe, this can be a definite bonus, as you can mix and match several pieces of charcoal to achieve the best fit and a uniform heating surface.