Hookah smoking has taken over Atlanta. Found everywhere from night clubs to sushi bars, the Indian water pipe and its flavored shisha tobacco is one of the city’s new favorite indulgences. Ever curious, I was determined to scout out a few of the best hookah spots looking for not only the reason for the past time’s popularity surge but also where to get hookah(ed) up. As a nonsmoker I initially couldn’t understand why everyone seemed hooked on the hookah. However, after one night at Therapy Lounge, I began to sense the allure.
On a rainy Tuesday night, I ran out to with a friend to scope out Therapy. My friend was late, so I settled at the bar to leisurely sip a hot toddy and people watch through the billowy clouds of hookah smoke.
Everyone seemed noticeably laid back and in good spirits. People were chilling as if on their couch at home, drinking, talking and puffing swirls of sweet-smelling, decadent flavored shisha tobacco. Regulars exchanged banter like old friends and once Indie Arie and Rockmond Dunbar strolled in, I suddenly felt like I had been given an access card to an undercover spot boasting all the cool kids.
This realization magnified itself when I found out that the resident mixologist who had been attentively serving me all night was actually Ava Kopieczek, one of the co-owners. Call me bourgeois but I appreciate refined service and everything about this place exuded class.
When Kopieczek’s business partner and co-owner, Tamar Telahun breezed in, her regal demeanor and warm congeniality further assured me that I could get comfortable with the idea of becoming a repeat customer at Therapy, if not a regular.
What was supposed to be an hour long stop turned into a pleasantly surprising low-key mid-week soiree. We hung around until nearly 1:30 a.m. listening to the DJ spin sounds from Eritrea, eating delicious Ethiopian cuisine by hand and we even got treated to some of Rockmond’s chocolate birthday cake! When I replayed the episode in my mind, it felt as though I had been the entertained guest in the home of a new friend. I don’t know of many other places where one can buy service that is not only genuine, but impeccable — everyone is a VIP.
Turns out when one mixes unpretentiousness with quality shisha tobacco, good company, rhythmic music and delectable foods it becomes an atmosphere that is ripe for seduction — of the senses, that is. Though smoking hookah may not be for everyone, it appears to be an activity that is communal by nature; therefore the draw of the crowd is almost inevitable and the water pipe is at the center of it all.
Here is what Therapy co-owner, Tamar Telahun had to say on the appeal of the hookah lifestyle:
Parlour: Why’s Hookah smoking so popular in Atlanta?
Tamar Telahun: Oddly, it’s a combination of a lot of things. Partly it’s a great way to socialize with different people, you have this one thing that you’re sharing going back and forth on it and the other aspect is that it’s legal. People don’t feel the restraint to do [hookah] as opposed to smoking other things that are not legal. The third thing perhaps is that you get a little buzz out of it which goes away really quickly so you don’t still feel the effects after an hour. But more than anything the hookah attraction is socializing. You don’t see ten people holding ten different hookahs, instead ten people might have two or three to share. It’s the camaraderie, a social guarantee that you’re in this setting and you have one thing in common that you’re sharing.
What type of tobacco do you use at Therapy and what are some of the more popular flavor combinations that you offer?
The most popular are the mixes between two different flavors. There’s a company called Star Buzz that combines a more fruitier, bubblegum-ish flavored tobacco, also sex on the beach, wild berry and mint are very popular. Also the Al Fakher blend from Dubai is very popular along with the minted orange, grape and apple.
Hookah smoking seems to have grown more common, even in restaurants with no smoking laws. Why is hookah smoking a special exception?
Hookah doesn’t smell like cigarettes so it’s not offensive to people. If you have asthma or some sort of breathing issue, any kind of smoke will bother you. For the regular person, hookah doesn’t have an overpowering scent. You don’t go to a hookah bar and then go to sleep without washing your hair and wake up in the morning smelling like a hookah like with cigarettes.
What makes Therapy different from other hookah lounges?
I would say what makes us different is, we are on the high end side, its very cozy and classy. We also have coffee and desserts. We have live jazz band on Fridays and a DJ on Saturday that plays international music so it keeps every group happy. It’s a lounge, not a night club, so people can still talk and hear one another. In one word people say it reminds them off an “European” spot in Atlanta.
For would-be hookah smokers looking to get cozy, Therapy is auspiciously located near Emory University at 3145 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329. (404) 320-2040. Read more here about what Therapy has to offer all week long.
Other Places to get Hookah(ed) Up
House of Hookah 398 14th Street, Atlanta, GA (404) 748-1379
Features custom, handmade hookahs with fresh cut- fruit tops that are packed with premium tobacco. Heads up to the drinkers, House of Hookah is a dry (read: no alcohol) establishment.
Divan Restaurant and Hookah Lounge 3125 Piedmont Rd., NE, Atlanta, GA 30305 (404) 467-4297
Touted as an ideal first date spot, the Persian-style Mediterranean cuisine is accentuated by hookah service right at the dinner table.
Nonstandard Hookah Spots
Eclipse di Luna 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., NE, Atlanta, GA (678) 205-5862
Sindustry Sundays night is the time to get your fill of the hookah, the fun starts at 10p.m. with a live DJ and belly dancing.
Chic, contemporary decor combined with drinks, sushi and hookah are a perfect combination for a good time. Come in the spring for the patio.