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Chill-out

Hookah has long moved out of smoky sanctums into public hot spots and the comfort of one’s home. But while owning your own hubbly-bubbly can be a whole lot of fun, getting a perfect puff is not as easy as it looks! t2 helps you pick your pipe

BEST BUYS

Depending on your budget, you can get the traditional, ornate variety to the miniature portable ones.

Urbano @ South City: Has ornate high-end hookahs in beautiful coloured glass finish. The hookahs here come in three sizes and prices start at Rs 2,500 and go up to Rs 6,000 for the largest-sized hookah. “We have at least one customer a week looking for hookahs. Most go for the metal and glass variety as it is more pocket-friendly and can be used frequently as opposed to the elaborate ones, which are bought mainly for decor purposes,” says Jaswinder Kaur, manager, Urbano.

Sigara @ 196, AJC Bose Road, Park Street-Mullick Bazaar crossing; 100/1 Karaya Road (opposite Karaya police station): A one shop-stop solution for all your hookah needs including flavours and hookah parts like the mouthpiece, hose and the chillum. Prices start at Rs 400 for small glass portable hookahs and go up to Rs 2,000 for large gift-packed hookahs in beautiful boxes. “We even service your hookah and do party orders where we bring the hookahs to your doorstep,” says S.M. Faisal who gets around 20-25 orders during the party and wedding season.

Navkar @ 33C, Hindustan Road, Gariahat: Stocks pretty metal and glass hookahs ranged between Rs 700 and Rs 2,500. Plus, hookah accessories like coal, tobacco and filters.

CJ’s @ 44B Syed Amir Ali Avenue: Stop here for a customised touch to your hubbly-bubbly by getting a specific motif or your name engraved on the hookah! The brand also keeps readymade DIY hookah kits comprising hookah, flavours, coal, toothpick, foil and chillum, complete with a note on how to make the hookah. Prices for these kits start at around Rs 3,000. The standard hookahs at CJ’s range between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000; the custom-made ones start at Rs 8,000. The puff stop even does hookah servicing, cleaning and doorstep delivery.

New Moradabadi Shop @ 1 Tara Chand Dutta Street, opposite Royal Indian Hotel: For a taste of history, head over to this 129-year-old shop dealing in new, glitzy hookahs as well as the old Nawabi real deal. The store, owned by Khurshid Akhter, 55, is a goldmine for those looking for a touch of the traditional. Beautiful brass hookahs, many adorned in rich meenakari work, stand tall in this shop famed for its hookahs. Some have an inner lining of coconut shell to keep the water cool. Prices range between Rs 150 for the miniature handheld variety and Rs 10,000 for the full brass ones.

HOLY SMOKE!

The best hookah flavours can give you a delicious smoke. Some of the best brands from across the world such as Al-Fahir, Afzal and Nakhla are easily available at most hookah hubs in Calcutta. The price for a box starts at around Rs 50. Pan Masala, Pan Rasna, Raspberry Blueberry, Orange, Mint are the everyday popular flavours. “But creating ‘mixes’ is the fad right now like Double Apple Mint, Rasna and Orange, Salsa & Mint and Royal Paan and Gum,” says Sovan Mukherjee of Nocturne, a lounge-bar with hookah on Theatre Road.

TOP TIP

“While buying, choose hookahs which have spare parts that are easily available. Often I get customers wanting replacements for missing hookah parts, which we can only fix if they are readily available in the market. Also, don’t only go by looks. At first glance, coloured glass or fancy wood might look beautiful but ensure that all the connecting parts of the hookah fit snugly into each other. This is crucial for a good smoke — if the fit is not perfect, smoke will escape from the gaps,” advises Chitvan Jaipuria, director of CJ’s.

FUNK IT UP

To enhance the feel and flavour of your hubbly-bubbly experience, trade the regular water in the base with fruit juices or flavoured water. For a cool puff, place some ice cubes in the glass base.

You can also try a Mojito hookah. Crush mint leaves, make a mocktail and fill the base with it. The mint leaves floating in the water lend a visual appeal. Then put lemon and mint blend in the chillum to get a minty, Mojito-like flavour for the puff.

Do

Crush and blend the molasses completely when blending flavours.

Make sure the chillum is fixed properly to the base to stop the smoke escaping from the sides.

Blow into the hose before and after use, to clear the hookah chamber of stale smoke.

The ash produced can coat the coal and prevent it from burning properly, so keep cleaning the ash for a better smoke. Clean the hookah well and change the coal after a period of time.

Store the leftover flavours in air-tight containers.

Don’t

Inhale till you are out of breath. The amount of smoke you release is not a measure of how cool you are.

Mix too many flavours at one time. Also, choose flavours that are equally strong. For example, don't mix vanilla and mint, the latter will dominate. Try mint and lemon instead.

Place the charcoal directly on the flavoured tobacco as the tobacco is not supposed to be burned.

Share the plastic nozzle. Use soap to clean the apparatus. Just pass lukewarm water through the rubber pipe.