Blonde Leaf vs. Dark Leaf Hookah Tobacco: What's the difference?
4th Mar 2022
Hello there #FumariFam! Did you know there are more than 5 types of hookah tobacco out there? But rather than overpacking your bowl with a metric ton of info, we're going to highlight the two dominant types getting packed today: Blonde Leaf Hookah Tobacco and Dark Leaf Hookah Tobacco.
BLONDE LEAF HOOKAH TOBACCO
Blonde Leaf Hookah Tobacco (or Blonde Leaf as many refer to it) is where all modern hookah tobacco is born. It is comprised of a blend of Virginia tobacco which is Flue-Cured (a fancy word meaning the leaves are dried out using heated air). Generally, a finished blonde leaf hookah tobacco product consists of a light-colored molasses-derived sweetener, such as cane sugar or even honey, resulting in a bright, golden color leading the industry to coin the term: “Blonde Leaf”.
DARK LEAF HOOKAH TOBACCO
Dark Leaf Hookah Tobacco (or Dark Leaf) has ties to some of the earliest hookah traditions imaginable but only recently regained popularity with those searching for a more robust smoke. Modern dark leaf products are typically made using Virginia or Burley leaves that are either air- or fire-cured. Dark leaves and dark leaf hookah tobacco are not always synonymous with one another, however. Many finished dark leaf hookah tobacco products on the market are darkened by continuing to bake the molasses during the production process to achieve the black color many are familiar with. This is what led to the term “Dark Leaf” being created which is now associated with bold, rich flavors in dark hookah tobacco rather than the tobacco leaf itself necessarily.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
While upon first glance the color may be the only noticeable difference when comparing these two types of hookah tobacco, it is in the smoke quality itself that you can truly see, taste, and feel the difference. Three key characteristics make themselves apparent and these are throat feel, the tobacco notes the leaf itself gives, and flavor strength which goes hand in hand with overall flavor depth.
But don’t just take our word on it, we set out to find some of the biggest fans of hookah tobacco out there and get their invaluable input on this very subject. They are none other than:
Matt from @Morninghookah, Walid @Moscote_hookah, and Moa from @Moasmokes.
Matt: “I notice dark blend will smoke much heavier, and blonde leaf will be brighter. Dark blend from what I understand has more concentrated flavor, so the flavor itself will be heavier and the throat feel will have a fullness to it compared to a blonde leaf. When smoking with friends I will pack blonde leaf because I know that most people will not be used to this more robust feeling and the nicotine concentration.”
Walid: “A common misconception is that people that smoke dark leaf covet a coarser smoking session. Yes, dark leaf is inherently stronger and has a higher nicotine content than blonde, but the aim for me is to land on a pack method that tames the tobacco, and reduces the throat feel, whilst delivering potent flavor, notable cloud output and satisfactory longevity in a session.”
Moa: If heat becomes an issue during a session with either tobacco, you may feel a throaty hit or throat kick, meaning the tobacco, regardless of type, is overheated and slightly burning. One shouldn’t be easier to smoke than the other speaking on smoke solely.
Matt: “I like the taste of tobacco with a lot of the flavor profiles I smoke, when it comes to a floral flavor or a mint flavor, I think a dark tobacco undertone can be a great extra taste to it. It adds darkness to the flavor. Now when we are talking about flavors like lemon, strawberry, and other fruits, then the fewer tobacco notes the better for me. It helps these types of flavors feel brighter.”
Walid: “Whilst the blonde tobacco leaf is more palatable to a wider range of end-users, including entry-level/social smokers, the natural tobacco notes do become more muted compared to dark leaf, which has its own aging cycle and means of curing that is affected in the smoke. What one smokes depends entirely on what that user wants from their sessions.”
Moa: “In dark leaf blends, there is a slightly earthy, tobacco flavor. For some flavors, this enhances the flavor you’re smoking and makes it more accurate. There are flavors that are accomplished exceptionally well in dark that aren’t as accurate in blonde. For instance, blueberry comes to mind for me.”
FLAVOR DEPTH & STRENGTH
Matt: “Flavors made with the type of tobacco used in mind can be very helpful like a mint or a deep dessert flavor, can be a lot stronger with dark blends. The added complexity of the tobacco often adds a deeper flavor to it. However, when you are looking for something like a bright Citrus Tea, then using a less buzzy tobacco such as blonde leaf and having in mind that the tea flavor is going to stand out for this herbal type of blend can be really nice together. I think having these two types of tobaccos in mind during the creation process will help create blends for flavors to really shine based on the type of smoke people might be looking for.”
Walid: “It isn’t necessarily a given that dark leaf flavors will deliver a deeper flavor. There are many flavor profiles in blonde that deliver high levels of potency. I do find however that, on paper, certain flavor profiles suit certain lines better. For instance, lighter fruiter flavors may translate more naturally in blonde, whereas more gastronomic/spice-note heavy flavors are complimented by deeper tobacco notes.”
Moa: “The flavor in dark leaf is *usually* more potent, but there are exceptions to this, making it not a rule, but rather a guide. Dark leaf also tends to last longer *usually*. Some of the flavors are generally more complex with this type of tobacco. This comes from a combination of the flavor being developed accurately, but also because it slightly incorporates some of the characteristics of dark leaf tobacco into the flavor profile, thus enhancing it.
Thanks to our panel of hookah experts, no mental (tobacco) leaf should feel unturned! And in summary, while these two types of blends are quite different, the way you prepare them and ultimately practice your hookah skill set will determine what you can get from them. Regardless, with proper technique, a beautiful session is out there waiting for you whichever you are loading up next!