Charcoal is one of the three big necessities for smoking hookah. There is really nothing you can do with a hookah and a bunch of hookah tobacco unless you have the proper charcoal to make it all come together and produce the hobby we all know and love.
The charcoal that is most popular today is a style consisting of ground up plant matter (most often wood or coconut shells) that is reformed into a consistent shape with a consistent density that will result in a predictable smoking experience most of the time.
The origins of hookah are much more simple. Natural charcoal is where it all started. This is nothing more than pieces of wood (lemon wood in this case) that have been turned into charcoal. There are no binders and no chemicals. This is as pure as it gets and this is the method that many will swear by until the end of time.
These charcoals are irregular in size and need to be worked with to make them usable. you will always get a good amount of small unusable pieces at the bottom of the bag and some giant pieces that need to be broken up to make them usable. This can result in your hand getting covered in black dust and it can get a little messy. The varied sizes can actually be a blessing at times as well.
Let’s say that you have been smoking a bowl for a good amount of time and it’s at the point where you know there is a little more life left in it but not enough for a full round of coals. With the more modern styles of charcoal you would be wasting an entire sessions worth of charcoal if you lit another round only to find the flavor peters out after 15 more minutes. With the varied size I enjoy being able to fine tune the heat that I am using.
The burn on these pieces can vary quite a bit but is almost always good. So long as the piece is big enough it will have good heat production and good longevity. As I said earlier there is always a good amount of unusable pieces and dust at the bottom of the bag. The coals are fragile and in travel they will get bumped around and some will be smashed. The majority will always be good, usable charcoal.
The price on these is reasonable. They require a little more work and are a bit more “old school” but they are cost efficient because of how much you get out of each kilo and how little you have to pay. I prefer the more modern forms of charcoal but natural charcoal will give you the cleanest session possible because it is made out of unadulterated fruit tree wood (most commonly lemon or orange) with nothing added in any way.
As a final note, these do not taste like lemon. They taste like nothing. The lemon part is only the tree that the wood was harvested from and it’s some of the best wood for the job.
5 out of 10. I really do like natural charcoal but they can be a hassle to work with because of the mess and sometimes having to resize them to make some of the pieces usable. I think everyone should try smoking with charcoal like this at least once. It’s an experience to say the least and really is the cleanest smoke you can get. It’s also good to know about the evolution of our favorite hobby.