Today there are so many different types and styles of bowls on the market that you may not know what half of them are for or where they came from. Everything from the classic Egyptian to the glass bowls made out of lab quality Pyrex is available and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
So, why are there still bowls made from unglazed clay? To many, it seems like an unfinished product. Did they just forget to add the glaze? Is this safe to smoke from? Why would you choose unglazed over glazed? Let’s try to answer some of those questions.
Are unglazed bowls safe?
Absolutely. Smoking out of natural clay with no additives poses no problem. There are actually a lot of glazes on the market that are lead based and can be hazardous if used on a hookah bowl. This should never be the case with a good quality bowl, but it’s good to know if you ever plan on making your own. Always stick to food-safe glazes.
Why do we glaze bowls?
There are two main reasons that bowls get glazed. Firstly is aesthetics. Glazed clay looks great and some companies, like Tangiers, have taken a very artistic route with their glazing. Secondly is because it make cleanup easier. Clay helps to prevent flavors from leeching into the clay and ghosting forever.
Why do some people still use unglazed clay bowls?
If the flavor of the tobacco is going to impregnate and stain the unglazed bowl, why does anyone still use them? That actually exactly why they are still used. Unglazed clay will absorb the flavors that you smoke in it and some people believe that this lends a depth and fullness to future sessions that you can’t get otherwise.
Let me be clear, unglazed bowls are most often devoted to one flavor only so that the bowl can take on a deep seasoning and flavors will not get muddy or nasty from bad ghosting. One of the advantages of unglazed clay bowls is that they are really cheap so you can have a double apple bowl, a citrus bowl, a black moassel bowl, a rose bowl and a spice bowl for a few dollars if you know where to look.
That seasoning, similar to the seasoning of a western briar pipe, is the main reason that unglazed bowls are used. Some old-school shisha smokers swear that you are not getting a full experience unless you are using an unglazed bowl with many years of sessions baked into it. Some people still smoke with the bowls that their fathers passed down to them after smoking with them for years. These are cherished heirlooms and are much sought after by hardcore hookah fanatics.
Me? I like both glazed and unglazed. I think I might start and heirloom double apple bowl now.