Jamaican Innovations: What is a Steam Chalice?
Published on 11/25/22
It's no secret that the people of Jamaica love their ganja. That's why Jamaica is known as the true birthplace of modern-day cannabis culture. The island nation has its top-notch landrace cannabis strains, has been widely known as a hub for legal cannabis tourists from all over the planet for the past several decades, and even a whole religion built around the consumption and spiritual enjoyment of the cannabis plant called Rastafarian. Cannabis is deeply engrained in the culture of this beautiful island nation.
As a result of that fusion between cannabis and culture, Jamaica has always been at the forefront of innovative and exciting ideas when it comes to legal cannabis. They've developed the modern-day language of cannabis culture, created music and art about it that infiltrated and influenced the mainstream, and led the way in creating new and exciting ways to consume cannabis. One of Jamaica's most unique and lesser-known methods is via the steam chalice.
That's likely a term that even the most experienced and plugged-in stoner outside the island of Jamaica hasn't heard of. But what exactly is a Jamaican steam chalice? How does it work, how long has it been around, and what does one even look like in the first place? Instead of forcing you to punch something like "steam chalice Jamaica" into your search engine of choice, we'll instead break it down for you and go in-depth on everything Jamaican chalice pipe-related to ensure that your next trip to Jamaica includes some traditional chalice pipe-related action!
History of Cannabis in Jamaica
To fully understand the history and cultural significance of the steam chalice, otherwise known as the rasta chalice on the island itself, you'll need to understand the history of Jamaica and cannabis itself. Originally introduced to the island from India during British colonial rule, Jamaicans embraced cannabis like few other places on Earth had before. While there's always been evidence that cannabis and humanity have been linked via recreational and religious consumption of the plant, Jamaicans are a modern-day example of that link, thanks to Rastafari.
Following a sweeping wave of Pan-Africanism on the island in the 1940s, Rastafarianism took root in Jamaica thanks to spiritual and cultural leaders like Leonard Howell and Marcus Garvey. Although Rastafarianism had been around in some form as far back as the 18th century, it took root in Jamaica and caught the world's attention via Bob Marley's music.
But what exactly is Rastafarianism? While it's a phrase or idea that many boil down to just being able to enjoy some cannabis with some deeper meaning attached, the reality is far different. At its core, Rastafarianism is a fusion of Protestant Christianity, old-school mysticism, and pan-African political engagement.
Followers of Rastafarian are usually vegetarians who adhere to an "Ital" lifestyle, which involves consuming whole organic foods, preferring to leave their hair and bodies in their most natural states (like dreadlocks), and participating in religious ceremonies involving the use of ganja to reach a more plugged-in status with the natural world around them. As a result of this fusion between natural living and religious experiences, it's no wonder that Jamaicans have been at the forefront of finding and creating new and iterating cannabis consumption methods!
That's where the original coconut steam chalice comes into play!
Based on the Rastafarian principles we laid out above, it should be no surprise that pipes and smoking devices made of natural organic components like coconuts are famous for devotees, even today!
What are Steam Chalices and How do they Work?
At its most basic, a steam chalice is a cannabis consumption device created to do what a modern-day vaporizer does today. The only difference is that instead of being powered by a battery, electric coils, and metal, the steam chalices Jamaicans have been using for nearly 100 years now are all organic, 100 percent natural inventions. They're literally ancient people's answer to the modern-day dry leaf vaporizer!
Usually made from just a hollowed-out coconut with a little clay bowl inside, a bamboo stem for an airtight seal with the coconut, and a ceramic bowl called a Kutchie, steam chalices are cannabis smoking devices for those who are looking for a more laid-back and less smokey environment. They work just like any other water pipe, filtering the vapor through the water in the chamber of the coconut to cool it down on the inhale.
Since steam chalices use slow-burning coals as a heat source instead of flames like from a bong or spliff, they're a slow burn of a smoking experience. The smoke you're inhaling isn't as harsh as it would be from a joint or spliff, and the flavors and terpenes in the cannabis flower you're smoking really can be tasted and enjoyed.
On top of that, the vapor you're inhaling is nowhere near as harsh on the lungs as traditional smoking can be. After all, the health risks associated with smoking any burning plant materials are well-documented. That's a key reason why cannabis-infused edibles and beverages are some of the fastest-growing sectors of the modern-day legal cannabis landscape in the U.S.
Smoking out of a steam chalice is similar to a hookah, except you're enjoying cannabinoid-rich vapor instead of just tobacco smoke. Jamaicans frequently add fragrant herbs like peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus into their cannabis flower mixes to make the steam chalice vapor more aromatic and flavorful!
But don't let the fact that this is vapor and not smoke fool you. The cannabinoid coming out of a steam chalice is nothing to sneeze from. The vapor from a steam chalice is highly potent, just like it would be from a modern-day dry leaf vaporizer. If you're not careful to pace yourself when taking pulls from a steam chalice, you'll be in for a while ride when those cannabinoids hit you like a truck.
The key difference between a hookah and a steam chalice is the incredible portability of the chalice. Since it's only the size of a coconut, most steam chalices can be carried around with you on the go, allowing you to walk up and down the beautiful Jamaican beaches while you smoke. With all that in mind, it's easy to imagine how enjoying smoking out a steam chalice could be considered a religious experience, right?
The Bottom Line
No matter how you slice it, steam chalices are rather interesting little devices. Made chiefly from organic material to adhere to the Rastafarian ideal and working as throwback vapes before the idea of dry-leaf vaporizers came about, they're genuinely a one-of-a-kind cannabis consumption method!
Not only is it an old-school way to enjoy your cannabinoids without inhaling harmful smoke and toxins into your lungs, but you can also customize it with additional flavors to take things up a notch! While it might take a few sessions to fully get the hang of how to use and enjoy a steam chalice properly, the experience is worth doing whether you're a dedicated Rastafarian or just a tourist looking for a unique and exciting cannabis consumption experience.
We highly recommend giving this a try the next time you spend some well-deserved time in the beautiful island paradise of Jamaica!