What comes to mind when you think of hookah tobacco? It’s probably an image of a heap of chopped tobacco leaves in a soupy mix of sweeteners, glycerin and flavorings that can smell like anything from bubblegum to spiced chai. But, there are many other forms of hookah tobacco and today we are going to focus on the one known as Jurak. This is only an introduction to this ancient form of tobacco and a primer on how to get it smoking. I’ll follow this up later with a more detailed guide to smoking it with certain bowls.
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Where you can usually see the chopped leaves in modern hookah tobacco, jurak is more like a paste. There is no glycerin in this mix and the molasses that is used tends to be very dark and thick, so the final product is sticky and hard to handle. Jurak will most often arrive to your door in one solid lump that looks more like a ball of tar than tobacco. The first thing you need to learn is how to fluff pack something so difficult to deal with. I like to use my oyster fork with tips that I have sharpened to scrape the outside of the ball and tear up the tobacco lump into smaller pieces. If you try to do this by hand you will end up with large chunks and fingers coated in a layer of jurak, which doesn’t really help you in any way.
Now that you have a good deal of this paste scraped apart and in a usable form, you can load your bowl, foil it and apply heat. Pack it high and close to the foil. You don’t want them touching, but the closer the better. It’s difficult to burn jurak, but you’ll regret it if you do. There are some people who smoke tobacco like this without foil, but I find that unpleasant and wasteful of good tobacco. Don’t believe the stories that it’s more traditional. The only hookah tobacco smoked like that is tombac.
You are going to need much more charcoal than you would normally think reasonable. Because there is no glycerin and the moisture content is so low expect to use about twice as much charcoal as you would on a normal bowl to get this tobacco smoking. Even at peak cloud production the smoke will be moderate at best, so forget about clouds and enjoy the rich flavors.
That’s it for the basics of smoking jurak. Any shallow and wide bowl treat you fairly well, but make sure to tune in next tie when I go over how to smoke jurak in different bowls and tell you my pick for the best one for the job.