Tobacco Asia

Volume 18, Number 2

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32 tobaccoasia While the tobacco market in general has under- gone some remarkable transformations in the ar- eas of cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking over the past decades, and even centuries, the traditional shisha sector has remained remarkably stagnant in terms of innovation. Some claim it has been stubbornly unwilling to veer off its time-honored yet rather old-fashioned roots. What practically all shisha tobacco suppliers are offering is little more than an eternally expanding menagerie of flavors, which nowadays range from classical tobacco to savory (warm spices like cinnamon or vanilla), decadent (whisky and cognac), refreshing (mint and all imaginable types of fruit flavors), all the way down to outright ridiculous (bubble gum and – don't laugh! – Italian pasta) flavor choices. This may be a good thing for the sake of taste variety, but it doesn't change anything when it comes to how a shisha pipe operates and is prepared for smoking. The process has principally remained ex- actly the same since the time of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. Breathing new life into a messy business Enter Samer Jalloul, chairman and general manag- er of Lebanon-based Shishapresso S.A.L., whose firm intention is to jerk scores of shisha lovers out of their Sheherazade slumber and give them a shi- sha experience like never before. "Shisha tobacco by nature is very sticky [due to its molasses content]. It stains the hands, yet you have no choice but to physically handle it. It needs to be crumbled between the fingers, then sprinkled into the [shisha] head to ensure that it's fluffy enough for good air circulation. If it's too compact, it won't burn very well and the drawing effort also will be very hard," he said, explaining the age-old process before one can even begin en- joying a traditional shisha. Jalloul readily admitted that for many smokers this procedure is part of the overall experience, a "ritual", but he also is con- vinced that a large amount of connoisseurs would rather do without the mess and lengthy prepara- tion time. "Everyone has a lazy moment occa- sionally, or may have no time to do it themselves. Others have zero experience in shisha preparation, but just love to smoke one nevertheless." These people usually visit cafés, coffee shops, or dedi- cated shisha joints, where trained staff quickly and skillfully prepare the devices that Westerners have come to call 'hookahs'." Shaking Up the Shisha Landscape Shishapresso® starter sets "It makes shisha preparation a breeze and takes the mess out of the entire business too." By Thomas Schmid

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