Hashish, Part 2 : Dry sieving

Hashish, also known as “hash”, is a substance derived from the cannabis plant, more specifically the result of separating its glandular trichomes from therest of the plant matter. The history of hashish dates back to several centuries to the Indian subcontinent, where the cannabis plant has been used for medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes for millennia.

In our previous article on charas, we already saw the possible origin of this substance, as well as the first uses that were given to it; in fact, we have already pointed to the fact that there was a time when demand greatly exceeded production, which is why a new system for separating the resin glands soon became popular, a method that is the focus of today’sarticle: the sifting or screening of dried plants to separate and collect their resin by gravity. In other words, drysieving.

Indeed, sometime between  the 14th and 15th centuries, the producers of charas in the areas near the Himalayas were unable to satisfy the demand for hashish, the consumption of which, by that time, had become popular not only throughout the Asian continent, but also in European territory. It was necessary either a  greater investment in cultivated fields and labour willing to produce the charas, or the appearance of a new technique capable of producing upto the level of demand.

In this way, and probably from sifting already dried plants through wicker baskets or cloth/carpets of various kinds, a new type of hashish was born, very similar to that produced on the slopes of the largest mountain range in the world, but with an enormous difference: the workers could produce hundreds of grams of this substance in a single day, while the producers of charas barely reached a few tens of grams in a full day, and that was for the most experienced ones.

The process for making dry-sieved hash couldn’t be more different than that used to make charas. First, they did not work with the live (fresh) plant, but rather the plants were left to dry before beginning the process. Unfortunately for future consumers, in most cases, drying was done in full sun, taking much less time than drying the plants in complete darkness, as is usually recommended. We are not going to take it into account, because after all little was known about cannabinoids or terpenes at that time, much less about their conservation!

After drying the plants completely, separating the small trichomes from the plant material was much easier; the producers used different methods to do so, from rubbing the plants over baskets or cloth to whipping them with rods to release the resin that, when falling, would pass over a fine mesh and would fall in a container placed at the bottom, under the mesh. To give an example, this last method (very popular in Morocco, the world’s leading producer of this type of hashish) gave its name to its product, which in many parts of Europe and especially in Spain is known as “beaten” hash.

Once the fine golden powder was obtained, composed mainly of trichomes and some plant debris and which today is known in many places as kief, it used to be pressed into various shapes susing molds and some source of heat. The result was regularly shaped pieces (usually round, square, or rectangular) with a darker color on the outside due to the application of heat when making the piece. The production of hashish had evolved, taking an important step forward in order to be able to produce much more quantity, and with a smaller investment of time and effort.

As we also hinted in our article on charas, climate conditions played a fundamental  role in the development  and use of both techniques: while charas was suitable for very humid areas where not only sifting  the resin, but drying the plants correctly could mean a real challenge to produce dry screened  hashish a particularly dry climate was needed, so that the plants could dry ou tquickly and, more importantly, so that the resin could be screened without caking on the sieve due to high ambient humidity. Areas where environmental humidity was low and nights were cold were ideal, so where this method really gained popularity was in areas like today’s Iran or Afghanistan, true cradles of this product and birthplace of hashplants strains like Pakistan Balochistan

As both use and production spread, other countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan and – especially, though later ,  Morocco, also became known for the virtues of their dry-screened hashish. Over time, the producers realized that they could re-screen the resin (pass the resin through a sieve as they had previously done with the plants) to purify their kief and achieve a final product with better qualities. Although some weight was lost during the rescreening process, it is also true that the quality of the product obtained by this method was much higher… and we suspect that the same must have happened with its price!

In this way, this type of hash soon became the most common, leaving charas aside as a “delicacy” that only a lucky few could enjoy from time to time. Dry-screened had taken the market by storm  in record time, especially considering that the history of hashish was already several  centuries  old before the advent of this new production method.

Today the theory has not changed much, although both genetics and the materials used for screening, have done so … and in what way!  Although you can find areas where both the cultivation and production of hashish follow the tradition, nowadays producers can access to equipment capable of sifting kilos of vegetable matter in a few minutes, modern sieves classified according to micronage for re-sieving, refrigerated chambers to carry out the process …  the technical innovations used today are too many to mention in this article, but sufficeit to say that methods such as separation by ultrasound, static electricity or acoustic vibrations are no longer a novelty today.

An example of these new separation techniques without the use of solvents is waterhash, where water is used as a medium to carry out the separation, or, even more recently, the Rosin Hash technique, with which thanks to industrial presses and heating plates you can get a product of the highest quality either starting from vegetable matter or from concentrates or extracts that you want to further purify. Very soon we will dedicate two separate articles to these techniques, so stay tuned to our Blog!

Until then!