Almost everyone familiar with hookah has heard of the two dominant types of tobacco leaves used as the base to make the hundreds of shisha flavors available today. However, there’s a bit of misconception about these two types of tobacco and what the finished products are.
Dark leaf and blonde leaf are not an either or choice. These two varieties have distinct attributes that enhance shisha flavors differently. Thus, you have to note the characteristics of the tobacco leaves to decide which may be better for your preferred hookah flavors.
Dark Leaf vs. Blonde Leaf - The Difference Is in the Curing Process
Many people think or presume that dark leaf and blonde leaf tobacco are sourced from different plants. The genus nicotiana has more than seventy species of tobacco plant. However, barely a dozen species are grown commercially. Moreover, less than half a dozen are cultivated in large quantities. Hence, you don’t have an enormous bouquet of tobacco plant species in production.
In some cases, dark leaf and blonde leaf may have different sources or species of the tobacco plant. But the same tobacco plant can also deliver dark and blonde leaves. The color difference is not due to species, geography, or climate. The colors are a result of the curing process.
All tobacco leaves are cured before processing and subsequent manufacturing of a product, like hookah or shisha flavors. The curing process involves air drying, flue curing, etc. Such methods of curing alter the color of tobacco leaves.
Generally, a pale green, greenish yellow, or somewhat yellowish tobacco leaf turns orange when it is air dried or flue cured. The latter uses warm or hot air to dry the leaves, especially in regions that don’t have a long and humid summer.
The orange color is a transition, and it is during this phase that tobacco leaves appear blonde. If the drying and curing process continues, the orange or blonde leaves will turn brown, eventually black. Thus, you get the names blonde leaf and dark leaf tobacco.
Not All Dark or Blonde Leaf Hookah Tobacco Are Naturally Black or Orange
Shisha or hookah flavors are manufactured products, not just tobacco leaves. Companies use additives and natural colors to obtain the desired dark, black, orange, or blonde hue. Also, the specific processing and manufacturing process impacts the final color of the hookah tobacco.
Furthermore, dark leaves are not washed as extensively as blonde leaf tobacco. Since dark leaf tobacco has more nicotine strength, excessive washing may dilute that concentration. Besides, a dark leaf spends much more time drying, so it is cured to an extent for immediate processing.
The Different Flavors of Dark Leaf and Blonde Leaf Tobacco
Dark leaf tobacco has more nicotine. Therefore, it is much bolder or stronger than blonde leaf tobacco. Also, dark leaf has a heavier or fuller flavor profile owing to the boldness. In contrast, a blonde leaf is lighter or brighter. Since blonde leaf tobacco has less nicotine, it feels a bit softer.
These natural flavor differences are utilized and optimized while manufacturing shisha tobacco flavors. Any flavor that demands a bolder tobacco base calls for dark leaves. A flavor that will or should work better with a lighter tobacco base warrants blonde leaves. So, the choice is simple.
However, there’s a role of molasses, glycerin, honey, and other such ingredients used to make a shisha tobacco flavor juicier, softer, and more conducive to heat so that it doesn’t burn quickly in a hookah bowl. That said, now let us compare the two leaves in the context of hookah flavors.
Dark Leaf Tobacco Is Better for Floral, Minty, and Spicier Hookah Flavors
Dark leaf tobacco’s boldness suits floral flavors. Also, the heaviness or throat feel works well for mint and menthol hookah flavors. Likewise, some spices go well with dark leaves because the strong flavors are complemented by the boldness, heaviness, and sharpness of the tobacco.
Blonde Leaf Tobacco Is Better for Lighter, Fruitier, and Blended Hookah Flavors
Blonde leaf tobacco’s lightness suits fruity flavors, especially when you have a profile or texture that can be easily overshadowed by the boldness and nicotine of dark leaves. Similarly, blended flavors with multiple ingredients demand blonde leaf tobacco for those profiles to flourish.
How To Choose Between Dark Leaf and Blonde Leaf
There is no universal rule. You must try both to figure out your personal preference. Casual or social smokers often prefer blonde leaves because of the low nicotine and lighter feel. However, dark leaves aren’t necessarily overwhelmingly heavy or bold. The difference lies in the specific flavors.