The World of Hash
Hash, or hashish, is the original cannabis concentrate. The OG if you will.
With a history spanning thousands of years, its humble beginnings have evolved to include modern methods of cannabis extractions.
Hash, or hashish (which means “grass” in Arabic), is what you get when cannabis trichomes are separated from cannabis flowers.
Traditional hash is the original cannabis concentrate and is most recognizable as a brown brick or ball with a malleable, gummy texture, followed by strong spice and earth notes when pulled apart. Today, hash takes on many colours, textures, and consistencies. The term ‘hash’ has become an umbrella term over the last few decades to include traditional hashish methods as well as the more modern methods using solvent extraction.
Technically, all concentrates are hash, as all concentrates begin with the process of separating trichomes from the flower. However, for the purpose of this post, when we refer to hash we’re speaking of the traditional (solvent-free) hash products.
Trichomes, from the Greek word “trichoma” meaning “hair”, are the fine growths that glisten atop cannabis buds. It is within these trichomes that cannabinoids and terpenes are found, which is what make them so important in the production of hash.
Harvesting cannabis plants at various stages of development will produce varying cannabinoids and terpenes. For example, a cannabis plant harvested during peak flowering stage when trichomes look clear or translucent will have high concentrations of THC. If harvested several weeks later when the trichomes have begun to turn cloudy or amber, the same plant will have less THC and more CBN, producing an entirely different effect on the consumer.
History of Hashish
Hashish has been around for more than a thousand years, but its true origin remains a mystery. Records show widespread use of hashish in Arabia as early as 900 AD, and the first written reference appears in the classic “1001 Arabian Nights” stories which is estimated to have been written around 1000 AD.
Thanks to Hollywood, many people today are familiar with the legend of the word “assassin” tracing back to the word “hashish” because Persian solders would consume the drug before going into battle. It’s not certain whether the legend is actually true, but regardless, by 1300 AD, Marco Polo had heard the same story of hashish-using assassins and took these tales back to Europe.
The consumption of hashish continued to spread around the world throughout the years. By the 18th century, hashish had become so popular in Europe that it was being consumed by both soldiers (Napoleonic campaigns in Egypt) and literary figures such as Charles Baudelair and Victor Hugo.
How Hash is Made
Over the centuries, different regions of the world developed their own hash-making techniques, resulting in textures that range from fluffy and powdery to solid and compact. Those differences in technique also affect colour, where it can be gold, pale olive green, red, or almost black.
There are two main steps to the hash-making process: separating trichomes and then pressing trichomes, better known as sieve and press.
Dry-sieve or sifting is the process of separating the trichomes from the cannabis plant by rubbing the flower over a screen. This process will produce a powder like substance known as “kief”.
The quality of kief depends on both the size of the screen and the time/intensity that flower is ‘shaken’ over it. The finer the holes in the screen, the better quality the kief as less plant matter is mixed in. The less time that flower is shaken over screens also improves kief quality, as only the ripest and most developed cannabis trichomes sift through the screens first. Once again, the less time shaking flower over a screen means less plant matter to dilute the quality of the kief.
Hand-rubbed hash is probably the second most common technique for making hash, and has been the form of production for hundreds of years in countries such as India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Hand-rubbed hash is the result of physically touching fresh female cannabis flowers through extensive handling in order to retain the sticky trichomes. Hands are then rubbed together to press the trichomes into a workable resin. The resin is then rolled into balls and are cured, sometimes for years, until completely free of moisture.
Using ice-water, fresh or dried cannabis is submerged and stirred, either by hand or machine, to break off the hardened, frozen trichomes. The resin-rich solution is poured through mesh-screen bags to separate the trichome heads from the plant matter.
The wet sand-like material that remains is dried and cured for weeks to ensure that all traces of water have evaporated. Depending on the grade, the colour can change. As a general rule, the lighter the colour of the bubble hash, the better it is! The better it has been filtered, the less plant material that ends up inside the final product. What remains is a pretty decent solventless hash product.
Butane Hash Oil
Butane hash oil, or butane honey oil, is a modern method of hash production and the base for many cannabis concentrates such as rosin, shatter, wax, crumble, badder, and so on.
BHO is made with a very clean, high purity version of butane gas. During the BHO extraction process, the Butane gas passes through the cannabis in a sealed cylinder separating cannabinoids and terpenes from the raw material of the marijuana plant. BHO concentrates have an extremely high THC and terpene content in comparison to their traditional hash counterparts.
Types of Hash
Many cannabis consumers enjoy hash for its rich fragrance, delicious flavour and powerful potency. These are elements that will differ between types of hash to provide a unique experience.
Below are examples of the more popular types of traditional hash.
Kief is the simplest and most basic form of hash. It is collected by sieving fresh or dried/cured flower over a screen to separate and isolate the trichomes.
Kief has the texture of powder and the look of sand. Those who use a compartment-style grinder to roll their own joints will have already encountered kief. It is the resin/powder that collects in the bottom compartment and in the screens.
High-quality kief will have less plant matter mixed in. This process entails using multiple screens with finer holes as the sieving process progresses.
Afghan hash is made using dry-sieve kief, known in Afghanistan as Garda. The dry sift is then hand pressed using a small quantity of tea or water and worked until it becomes highly elastic. While the dry sift is being handled, it is periodically placed over a flame or other heat sources and then worked again.
What began as a golden kief product eventually turns into an almost black solid mass of resin. The resin is then rolled into either bricks or balls and left to cure until completely devoid of moisture.
Charas & Nepalese Temple Balls
Finger hash, also known as Charas in India, is the original hashish concentrate. Alluring and aromatic, charas was born from the first contact between people and the hemp plant, as sticky resin is unavoidable when handling cannabis.
Instead of sieving cannabis to collect the trichomes, resin is collected by lightly handling the female flowers of the cannabis plant until enough sticky resin builds on the palm and fingers. Hands are then rubbed together to collect the resin into a solid form.
Nepalese Temple Balls take the process one step further. Traditionally, ceramic plates are used to create the resin balls, then left to age (sometimes for years) which forms a crusty outer layer and a soft, creamy interior.
Bubble Hash is one of the most popular and commonly found types of hash in the world today due to its smooth flavour, high yield, and unaltered terpene profile, which gives way to the entourage effect.
Bubble Hash is solvent-free, made using ice water or dry ice extraction methods. Once the trichomes (kief) have dried, it is compacted and made ready for consumption. Top quality bubble hash is also called full melt bubble hash. Full melt refers to cannabis hash that is highly concentrated and devoid of plant matter so that it readily melts and bubbles when heated rather than burn.
Moroccan hash is almost legendary among die-hard fans of hashish. It is one of the only products that contains high concentrations of the terpinoid Hashishene, which gives Moroccan hash its unique flavour and aroma.
The methods of making this Moroccan legend differs completely from most other methods. First, Moroccan weed is dried for months, traditionally on rooftops with the help of the sun. This weed was never meant for smoking, so it is dried well past consumable standards. Once sufficiently dried, a bowl is covered with panty hose, the dried cannabis is placed on top, and then the cannabis is covered again by another piece of cloth or plastic. The bowl is then placed between the feet to make it easier to beat with sticks. This beating separates the trichomes through the panty hose leaving a beautiful powdered kief in the bowl.
The kief is then placed in an iron casing box to form solid bricks of what is known as ‘Polen’, or blonde hash. When there is heat treatment applied to the forming of bricks, the hash is then called ‘Paki’.
Lebanese red hash is one of the most sought-after varieties with its deep red colouring and exotic aroma.
Like Afghan and Moroccan hash, Lebanese red is also made using the dry-sieve technique and then pressed using heat and iron casing. The key differences in the Lebanese process come from the area where cannabis is grown, and the cultivation of the cannabis itself. The Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is a fertile area with rich red soil, surrounded by mountains, with long hot summers ideal for growing cannabis. Here, cannabis is harvested at the latest stage of maturation, when the leaves have begun to turn yellow and fall. At this time, the trichomes have also begun to turn a deep amber rather than cloudy or frosty white. After harvest, the plants are left in the field for up to a week to dry before storing.
It is the combination of red soil, late harvest, and sun-drying that gives Lebanese Red Hash its name and colour. It’s also important to note that the aging trichomes produce more CBN and less THC, giving Lebanese Red a more relaxing and sedative effect rather than psychoactive.
How to Consume
Hash is versatile, as are the methods of consuming it. Does anyone remember ‘hot knives’? Kidding, don’t do hot knives, it ruins your utensils and the chances of burning your lips are high. Get it? Okay that’s the last pun we promise.
If you’re going to smoke the hashish, it can be smoked in a joint, pipe, bubbler, or bong. Due to its density, it should be mixed with dried cannabis flower, tobacco, or another smokable herb.
It can also be used to make very potent edibles, so be careful with how much is used.
Finally, it can also be vaped or dabbed, but if you’re smoking the traditional versions then dabbing or vaping should be avoided. Most traditional hash still contains some plant matter, which burns and does not vaporize. Though it will still work, you’re likely to waste most of your good product in addition to leaving behind a sticky, black, resinous mess. Dabbing and vaping are best left to modern-day concentrates such as rosin, resin, shatter, etc.
Are You Intrigued?
We don’t blame you. Hash is an amazing, versatile concentrate with a ton of history. Those traditional flavours and aromas combined with techniques rarely seen today make it an alluring experience.
Try for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.