INTERVIEW with CANNVIS
The partnerships that Défoncé has created with cannabis collectives throughout California are not only what help us thrive, but they provide our loyal patrons with access to our product. Here, we spotlight Cannvis, an Oakland-based collective delivering artisanal cannabis throughout the Bay Area.
Q: Tell us about CANNVIS and how can customers find you?
A: CANNVIS is a boutique delivery service, based out of Oakland, CA. We serve most of the greater Bay Area and we can be found online at getcannvis.com.
Q: How and why did you start CANNVIS?
A: We probably share a similar story as Défoncé. Our President stems from a tech background and in early 2016 he was looking for his next move. He’d always been interested in cannabis, and with Prop 64 slated for the ballot he began seriously looking into the market and where CANNVIS could fit in. After taking a deeper dive, Tim noticed a disconnect in the marketplace. For the most part, CANNVIS' core demographic wasn't catered to from a product marketing and retail experience perspective. Our goal was to fill that gap, both in terms of the curation of our menu and how we serve our patients.
Q: What sets CANNVIS apart from other delivery services?
A: Obviously, there is no shortage of options in the Bay Area but we think what really sets us apart is our hyper focus on quality - everything we carry has to be top shelf. All of our flower is tested, which is nearly unheard of on the delivery front, and customer service is paramount for us. Being a delivery-based service is unique in that people cannot physically see products when buying, meaning we cannot afford just an "okay" first impression. We want our patients to know when they order form CANNVIS they’re going to be getting the best of the best.
Q: Why did you decide to carry Défoncé Chocolatier?
A: I guess that was a great segue. At CANNVIS, our ethos is to help elevate the industry and remove stigma associated with cannabis. Being an online-based service, that starts with selecting the products we carry. When we first saw your product we were absolutely blown away. Not only is your graphic design arguably the best in the industry but your infused-chocolate is simply amazing.
Q: How do you reach your customer base?
Q: Any big plans for 2017?
A: Since launching four months ago, we’ve been very well received by our customers, who often write us with feedback. In one recent example, a customer praised us as “the classiest delivery service around”. A value we hold dearly. In 2017, our biggest focus will be to scale so that we can expand in more markets outside of Oakland.
INTERVIEW with our chocolatiers
Q: Why did you decide to ditch traditional chocolate-making and join Défoncé?
A: We all want to create this product that, yes, will get you high, but which will be extremely enjoyable. We care about flavors and textures. We care about where the chocolate is coming from. We think medicated edibles is part of the future of chocolate, and we are thrilled to be a part of it. As the network of people who are willing to try cannabis widens, we think many will be drawn to high-quality products like Défoncé.
Q: You come from the mainstream food world, where standards for food safety are high and techniques are often based on decades, if not more, of research and development. How does this inform your approach to the decidedly non-mainstream production of cannabis chocolate?
A: I think the food manufacturing background is important. We run our facility in accordance with how any other food manufacturing facility should be run. At what temperatures should you store food? Without a strong background in food manufacturing, you probably don’t know. I think there is some tension between people who want to do it our way and the way it’s been done in the past, in terms of cannabis-infused products. We aren’t trying to take over the industry, but we are trying to carve out a space to do it in the right way.
Q: Can you talk about what it’s like to work with cannabis in a chocolate product? Does it change anything?
A: You can taste cannabis a little bit, and in our case, that is a good thing. Between the cannabis itself, which is of extremely high quality, and the awesome extraction technique, our cannabis exhibits a taste profile that is more like sage and rosemary than cannabis. This works well with our chocolates.
Q: Can you talk about the experience of eating a Défoncé bar? How does it make you feel?
A: Our extract is mainly THC, with maybe a small percentage of CBD. It gives you an elevated sense of euphoria. You can tell when you start to feel it, but it’s more of a heightened sense of awareness and euphoria rather than feeling, you know, totally stoned. I think ours is a very desirable type of high.
Q: What do you think about working in the cannabis industry?
A: I was apprehensive meeting family members who are both religious and conservative, although I have family members who are very liberal as well. It’s eye-opening, and it raises awareness. I’m humbled by people’s reactions, including my conservative relatives. The most interesting part of blending the two—chocolate and cannabis—is it’s such a great conversation starter.
Q: What are some new efforts for Défoncé?
A: We are looking to pair with chefs to create a line for pastry chefs who want to work with cannabis. We have worked out a system for accurate dosing, which is something chefs need to worry about. If they are interested in creating these culinary experiences—and increasingly, they are—how do they add it to the food? Leaves? Butter? Hash? We are creating a line that is the right percentage and is the right application for use in food.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: I’m excited about stretching my creativity. Every step, we are involved and we care about everything from quality of the product to quality of life.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: I had been working at a chocolate maker in San Francisco, but grew tired of the city and wanted to try something else. I traveled to Europe and got a job on an organic dairy farm in Germany. My Visa was expiring, and just about that time Shiao got in touch with me and asked if I was interested in Défoncé. Sounded great to me.
Q: What do you think about working in the cannabis industry?
A: I’m excited to see where this industry goes in this country and to be a part of it. I’d like to help shift the cannabis aesthetic away from shady, seedy, and gaudy. I’m proud of the fact that at Défoncé we are breaking away from that approach, that we are making a legitimate culinary product, not just a vehicle for cannabis. Also, I have always been a big cannabis fan. For the longest time, starting in high school, I jokingly said if all else fails I can become a drug dealer. Turns out, that sort of happened.
INTERVIEW with hummingbird medicinals
A careful search for the right Défoncé cannabis partner introduced us to plenty of savvy, compassionate farmers. But once we met Adam with Hummingbird Medicinals, we understood our search was over. Few farmers of any kind devote as much care and love to plants as Adam and the team at Hummingbird.
Q: Why do you grow cannabis?
A: We felt called to this plant for a long time, and have used it as medicine for decades, long before most people thought about it as medicine. In my opinion, it is the medicine of the future. We have always felt called to work with it. We do spend a lot more money than the next guy, but we grow strategically. We produce the best artisanal top-shelf cannabis in the world.
Q: What are some unique aspects of your approach to growing?
A: The compost techniques we use. Our intellectual property. Our layering technique. I have never seen anybody use this technique. It uses biodynamical techniques, permaculture techniques, and techniques that our master gardener has picked up during the past 25 years in a wide range of climates: Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, and California. We are building our soil, doing something totally unique. The plant decides when it needs to eat. We don’t add fertilizer, because it is already in the soil. I don’t want to put a chemical in my soil that some guy put in a bottle.
Q: You guys really love the plants, don’t you?
A: If you walk into your garden and are always in a bad mood, the plants respond to it. And if they are indoors, they never see sunlight or feel fresh air. It’s nasty. I’m out there putting love and healing into my plants and thinking everyone who ingests this medicine will receive the healing they need. This plant sustains us, it gives us life, we are grateful and it comes out in the final product.
Q: Why did you decide to grow in the Sierra Nevada Foothills?
A: The majority of what I do is full sun and outdoors. This will be the Napa Valley of cannabis. In the Emerald Triangle, you get fog and moisture and not so much sun and heat. That leads to powdery mildew and mold. We are removed from the coast, in the central part of the state. We don’t get fog and we get 90-plus temperatures from June through October. You can encourage plants to grow for longer, because it’s 80 degrees in October. It’s the premiere climate in the world for growing cannabis. We strongly believe that our sun-grown, organic cannabis thrives in the best microclimate in the world for growing cannabis. Much like fine wine and the Napa Valley, we believe within a few years the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Hummingbird Medicinals will be premiere names around the world for cannabis.
Q: Tell us a bit about your biodynamic approach.
A: I take a seed, germinate it in time with the biodynamic calendar, and when the tap root comes out, I bring it out into the full sun on my property. It never goes into a greenhouse or receives artificial light. Most people grow from clones. You don’t get a tap root. The plant won’t get as big or as strong. A seed plant is 1,000 times more vigorous than a clone. With clones, they are just cutting limbs from the same mother! Over and over again, cutting limbs from her. It’s so crazy—I can start with seed and 8 months later it is 16 feet tall and 30 feet wide. They are trees. That has to do with our processes, with our amazing soil. It has to do with the seed and the sun. We don’t eat fruits and vegetables grown under lights, or at least we don’t like to. Why do we allow our cannabis to be grown that way?
Q: What kind of varieties do you grow?
A: We usually have four to six different varieties. The varieties we have are unique to us, and only us. They are bred by master breeders and incorporate strains that thrive in our foothills climate. We tend to breed in strains like Blackberry Kush, that come from the Kush Mountains in Afghanistan, which is nearly the same climate as ours. We have a little bit of everything, but mainly hybrids. Not heavy indicas or full-on sativas. Lots of blends.
Q: Is growing cannabis environmentally friendly?
A: The sun is stronger than the silly grow lights and it doesn’t burn any coal. If we are going to be a cannabis community, then we need to deal with our environmental footprint, which is one thing I love about Défoncé. They committed to me because I have barely any footprint. We are using sun, and not electricity. Cannabis consumers should say no to more coal to grow pot. But I think water use and cannabis gets a bad rap. Look at how much water is used in factory farms along I-5 for cattle. Look at almonds. It takes way more water to grow almonds than cannabis. My water comes from a well beneath my property, 75 gallons a minute. There is a river beneath my property. All of our water use is on a drip system.
INterview with Harvest dispensary
California supports a wide range of high-quality dispensaries, shops that have moved beyond Dispensary 1.0, which tended to embrace a pawnshop or payday check-cashing aesthetic. Dispensary 2.0 pays attention to lighting and textile qualities, to displays and branding. Harvest, in San Francisco, is a leader in this new wave of dispensaries and cannabis lounges. We chatted with owner Marty Higgins about Harvest and branding.
Q: What are some of the things you guys look for, in terms of product selection?
A: We look for obviously high-quality products that are naturally sourced and grown by ethical, responsible farmers and producers. Our products don’t have polypropylene glycol or other additives that we feel are hazardous or could be hazardous. We err on the side of carrying pure products.
Q: What are your thoughts about branding? About presentation?
A: We are very mindful about packaging. Défoncé stands out from many other brands. It’s a luxurious-looking product. Fortunately, once you taste the chocolates and feel the effects, you know it’s among the best. Few people deliver that quality of edibles. We are thrilled to have them.
Q: How often do brands and farmers approach Harvest, asking if you will carry their products?
A: Over and over again, every day. Right now, we carry about 60 different products.
Q: Why does packaging matter to you?
A: We are delivering a familiar retail format and shopping experience, and that entails having packaging that mirrors others how products look in other environments. Packaging matters quite a bit to retailers in other markets, but it hasn’t been much of a focus in cannabis. Well-done packaging conveys a level of sophistication, which translates to us as care and love in the product. We are here to deliver the best consumer-driven experience in the market, and packaging matters to us, in part, because it matters to the consumer.
Q: Is attention to branding among cannabis brands getting better?
A: We have some of the best dispensaries in the country in the Bay Area, and brands are increasingly playing an important role in the dispensary experience. Brands like Défoncé are driving this, forcing retailers to say, `Wow, the people who pay meticulous attention to branding are selling well. Let’s work with more brands that understand the dispensary experience is about more than simple transactions.’