What are Charas? The Holy Resin of Mature Cannabis Buds
I had heard a few things about the cannabis scene in Nepal before I got here. Fellow travelers spun wild tales about cannabis growing free all throughout the foothills of Himalayas. I had even read several articles in preparation for my trip that presented Kathmandu, Nepal’s capitol and the city from where I’m writing these words, as a very “free-smoke” environment. Even though I had heard these things, I was still gob-smacked to find myself sitting in a rooftop café within three hours of landing in Kathmandu, drinking Masala tea with a Nepalese drug dealer and inspecting the quarter pound brick of charas that he was trying to sell me.
After landing and making the acquaintance of some other travelers at my hostel we set out to wander. There were four of us, a Turk, two Yanks and a Dane- sounds like the beginning of a joke right? No shit though, there we were, traipsing through the maze of the Thamel district in Kathmandu when a Nepalese drug dealer approached and ushered us into the café.
But hold the phone- you’ve heard of hash, what the hell is charas?
Sit tight. Let’s go to school for a sec.
What is Charas?
Charas is a variety of cannabis extract very similar to hash. It is handmade, and is thought to originate from regions of Asia, India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Like most cannabis extracts, it is made by separating the trichomes from cannabis plant matter to produce a highly-concentrated extract. The main difference between hash and charas is that the latter is made from live cannabis cuttings, whereas as the former is made using dead, dried plant material. Charas is also most commonly made using a traditional hand-rolling method, whereas hash can be made in a variety of ways, mainly using dry sifting, bubble bags, and more.
Want to make it yourself?
Well you’re in luck. If you’ve got your own crop the process is pretty simple.
1. Grab yourself a handful of buds that are 2-3 weeks from harvest.
2. Trim all the excess leaves from the buds but leave the stem.
3. After washing your hands, begin by rubbing these young fresh buds in between your hands. Focus on rolling them in between your palms at a consistent pace rather than focusing on squeezing tightly or going fast.
4. When your hands have enough residue on them, (they should be black), use your thumb to begin rolling all the sticky oil into a ball.
5. Roll the ball until it stops secreting oils and set to the side to dry.
6. Voila! Enjoy your charas!
This is the method as explained to me by my new friend Pram, (whose full name I couldn’t even begin to pronounce.) We sat, each of us sharing stories of our home countries as we passed around the huge charas brick between our small group, smelling, savoring- drooling. Pram, our new business acquaintance told us all with pride about how this particular charas was made by his father in the hills of the Himalayas from using the above method.
Not wanting to be rude by refusing his offer, we settled on a price of 3,000 Rupee, (30 USD), for roughly a 20-gram piece. Then the real fun came- smoking it.
How do you smoke charas?
As I discovered when we got back to the rooftop of our hostel to sess up, charas is traditionally smoked by using a chillum.
A chillum is a straight conical pipe with end-to-end channel that is usually made of clay. Originating in India it has been used since at least the eighteenth century by Hindu holy men, known as sadhus.
Smoking from a chillum is traditionally a very spiritual process. After filling the mouth piece with the charas a sadhu will cup one hand around the mouthpiece and inhale without touching their lips to the piece. The holy men will then raise the pipe to their forehead after lighting it, shouting praises and inviting Lord Shiva to come and partake in this pleasure.
Being that we were a bunch of backpackers from various corners of the world, we skipped inviting the Hindu God of Destruction to our little pow-wow, but I guess sitting on a rooftop embraced by the Himalayas is enough of a spiritual experience in and of itself.
If you don’t have a chillum, or are simply in a surrounding where some might find it inappropriate if you were to bust it out and start yelling praises to Lord Shiva, don’t panic. There’s more than one way to skin a cat right?
Like an old school spliff, charas can be rolled up with tobacco. While in Kathmandu I saw this method done two different ways.
The first one consisted of taking a small piece of charas and slowly rolling it into a very thin length, (the approximate length your joint will be.) Place your tobacco in the paper, with your thin charas pinner in the middle and you’re all set.
The second method was the easiest for me and the one I used most for mere convenience. Break yourself up a little pile of teeny, tiny charas pieces, mix it in with your tobacco and roll your spliff.
I used this method as it was the easiest to conceal. Carrying a chillum around in your pocket seems like it would be a huge pain in the ass. Also, while it is legally permitted for religious purposes in Nepal, (the sadhus), it is still against the law. As long as you’re not being a twat, however, I found that most cafes will let you light up freely as long as you ask for permission first.
My thoughts on charas?
High five India! Or Nepal! Or whatever bosom of the earth charas came from!
The high while smoking charas was heavy and intoxicating It producing some great spaced out trances in which I explored corners of my mind that I wasn’t aware even existed.
If you are ever offered any of this beautiful stuff, please ignore your parents advice and say yes.