Fancy a Cannabis Steam?

Picture yourself sitting by the ocean, on a white sandy beach, amongst the coconut trees, in Jamaica.

Ok, now imagine you‘ve got your hands on some of the finest weed Jamaica has to offer, locally grown in a climate blessed for cannabis cultivation, and in a culture that reveres the plant like no other. 

Finally, in the spirit of going local, you’ll probably want to partake like a local, so you’ve found yourself toking on a bamboo pipe protruding out of a hollowed coconut shell, that’s filled with coconut water - that’s right, coconut water - and is being heated by charcoal coconut chips.

Jamaican steam chalice

It’s called a Jamaican steam chalice (among other things), and this traditional method of consumption is referred to as cannabis steaming.

In many ways, the device is a pipe/bong/vaporizers hybrid. It uses a combination of heat (not flame) and water to create steam that will be carried through the device and into the lungs. 

The chalice is made up of three main components, the bamboo stem, through which you inhale, the hollowed coconut shell, that’s filled with liquid, and a chillum like ceramic holder called the kutchie, which is usually protruding from the top or far side of the coconut shell and holds a layering of flower, topped with a porous ceramic coin known as the gritty, and finished off with the coconut chip charcoal embers - sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple. 

Like a bong, you pack the flower (often using whole buds) into the kutchie. You then place the gritty on top of the flower and layer it with hot coconut charcoal chips. When you inhale, the coconut chip embers heat the flower, collecting the aromatic terpenes and cannabinoids (similar to a vaporising device, in that no combustion occurs through this process), before passing through the coconut water in the hollowed out shell, creating a vapour, that is pulled through the bamboo pipe and into the lungs. 

Natural and Organic

This device ticks all the boxes, it’s natural, organic, and sustainable, making it a healthier choice for both people and the environment. Locals say that the resulting cannabis vapour is one of the most natural, clean and flavourful ways of experiencing the complete flavour profile of cannabis flower with a high that lasts far longer than a joint.

And we might just agree. It’s generally accepted that the combustion that occurs when smoking a bong or joint damages some of the plants properties, which is why many refer to vaping cannabis as a better way to receive the full profile of the plant, not to mention being easier on the lungs. In addition the coconut chip charcoal is used because of its ideal burning temperature and the fact that it is one of the cleanest forms of charcoal available to us - in terms of toxins released both for humans and the environment. In times of sickness the locals are even known to mix it up with other aromatherapy practices, some adding a few drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil as a home remedy.

So it is, the Jamaicans have essentially been vaping for years. 

Cannabis is central to the Jamaican Rastafarian community, in which they see the plant as a sacrament, a spiritual conduit to our inner god. They believe in Ital living, which is the practice of consuming a diet that is both organic and plant based, using that which is naturally available to them. The steam chalice is their preferred way of consuming the ‘holy herb’, as it brings together the four earthly elements - earth, air, water, and fire.

Mother Nature Provides

Steam Team Ja, a company promoting the practice of steaming, puts it like this; ‘earth is the clay kutchie (oven) and the gritty, fire is the coals, water is used to create the steam and the air is the vapor that is created throughout the entire steaming process. These four elements come together within one vessel to create the steaming experience, helping build harmony between the mind, body and soul.’

Whether we are busy unboxing the newest vaporiser on the market with the most advanced temperature control systems or if we are gushing over the strongest strain at the cannabis cup this year, the Rastafarian Ital way of life should serve as a reminder that nature provides us with everything that we need to get in touch with our higher selves.