Burlington Free Press | Good chemistry? Demand soars for CBD-coffee blends

Already awash with options, Java-swillers and tea-lovers in Burlington are increasingly topping up their cups with CBD, or cannabidiol, purveyors say.

The fuel additive is a legal, no-high hemp derivative that typically raises a café tab by about $2.50.

Enthusiasts have voted with their wallets, said Dan Smith of Cosmic Grind on Church Street: “CBD sells itself.”

Stirred, foamed, dolloped or steeped, CDB transforms the buzz of caffeine into something a tad more mellow, Smith said.

“Functional chill” is how California-based KickBack Cold Brew describes the nuanced effects from its coffee-CBD combo.

Many more enthusiasts tout CBD as having a broad range of therapeutic benefits.

Those claims have yet to be verified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Nonetheless, demand is surging in the Queen City.

On Thursday, Cosmic Grind on Church Street took delivery of a special, speedy dispenser pump from Lamoille County-based Elmore Mountain Therapeutics, its supplier of hemp oil-infused cannabidiol.

Smith’s embrace of the product had begun more slowly. Would skunky notes of hemp turn off coffee purists?

His concern was unfounded.

“Most of the feedback has been great,” Smith said. “People look forward to it tasting green.”

A more emphatic embrace of hemp’s unique flavor is underway around the corner from Cosmic Grind, at Dobra Tea on Bank Street.

The emporium already sells CBD-infused honey and edibles, but its goal is to create an aromatic, cannabidiol-rich tea from steeped hemp flowers, said employee Casey Wolff.

Wolff, equipped with a pressure cooker and a background in biochemistry and plant biology, is honing in on a process that he says will yield a stand-alone brew as well as one that might blend its “hempy, skunky notes” with other smoky teas, such as oolong.

Dobra co-owner Stacy Jolles delivered an early verdict on the hemp-only tea this week: “I was blown away that it tastes delicious on its own.”

The next step, Jolles said, is to send samples of the most promising hemp flowers to a lab to confirm their CBD-only content.

More than trace amounts of THC, the compound in marijuana most closely linked to its high, would send the project back to the drawing board. Or more specifically, back to Dobra’s supplier, Burlington-based Upstate Elevator Supply Company.

Dylan Raap, the company’s CEO, doesn’t mix his coffee with cannabidiol; he prefers a daily dose of CBD in capsule form.

“It has pronounced anti-anxiety properties,” Raap said. “I can see it taking the edge off caffeine. It’s calming, certainly.”

Dobra’s choice of whole, organic Colorado- and Vermont-grown plants — as opposed to oil infusions — delivers an “entourage effect” from multiple, wholesome “full-spectrum” compounds in marijuana (but not THC), according to Upstate Elevator’s website.

Rapp, who also owns the grow-it-yourself store Green State Gardener in Burlington, said recent advances in research confirm the complexity of cannabis and its effect on human nervous systems.

Coffee or tea drinkers intent on the most efficient and cost-effective delivery of CBD to their neural receptors, he continued, might consider vaporizing hemp on the side.

But, Raap added, anyone hoping to score CBD benefits by smoking or vaping “drug-cultivar cannabis” (weed that delivers a high) might be disappointed.

THC-rich marijuana has gotten that way through decades of purposeful, genetic selection to boost a puff’s potency — at the expense of CBD — because, Raap said, “no basement breeders found any use for it.”

Some local hot-drink vendors question CBD’s staying power.

Nate House, manager at Maglianero on Maple Street, said consumer demand and a healthy profit margin on ingredients inspired the café to experiment with cannabidiol concoctions.

A CBD-enhanced Japanese matcha tea latte took the honors.

“We went to some lengths to arrive at a delicious product,” House said. “There’s a lot of overlap in the flavors.”

Yet, customers can request a $2.50 shot of CBD in any of the café’s brews.

“That’s the sensitive part,” House added. “We’ll add it if you want it, but we tell people: here’s what we recommend, and why. Because first and foremost we’re a specialty coffee place.”

That emphasis on coffee-as-coffee — and not a medium for other chemical compounds — also informs Muddy Waters, on Main Street.

“I haven’t considered CBD in coffee,” said owner Mark MacKillop. “We’re fundamental, kind of purist, about coffee.

“There are any number of things you can put in it. We didn’t, for example, ever put cardamom in our espresso,” he added.

Similarly, Jason Gonzalez, co-owner of Onyx Tonics on College Street, plans to keep his coffees CBD-free.

“My focus is on coffee,” Gonzalez said. “CBD is not my area of expertise; not in my wheelhouse.

“We don’t do a lot of health-related anything here,” he added.

Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer Published 5:01 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018

 

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