Coffee and cannabis go together like a stoner’s PB&J. Caffeine has been shown to make THC more enjoyable, while a smooth sativa and cup o’ Joe are a classic wake-and-bake. Even the nineteenth century Parisian Club des Hashischins, a salon dedicated to experimenting with substances like hash and opium, drank a strong blend of coffee, hashish, nutmeg, cloves, and other spices.
Weed-infused coffee would only naturally be the next step in this age-old rapport, and now it’s here.
Ritual Coffee, a San Francisco-based roaster, teamed up with cannabis startup Somatik to pair coffee and weed in a single-origin cold brew. The beverage comes in eight-ounce bottles, each with 15 milligrams of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. That’s about one to two doses per bottle, depending on your tolerance to weed. (Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much THC you drink, it could have a potentially more psychedelic effect when it’s digested, as liver enzymes will turn it into 11-Hydroxy-THC.)
The blend isn’t supposed to replace a joint and a cup of coffee, says Christopher Schroeder, founder of Somatik, but the effect for him at least is a “more balanced feel” between mind and body, than the cerebral head high you get from smoking weed separately. “I’m going for something more functional for people,” Schroeder tells Jane Street. “People can integrate it throughout the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and works really nicely with cannabis, keeping the mind clear and giving you that relaxed body feel.” Some people drink it in the morning, others use it as an afternoon pick-me-up, or even as a weekend special, he says. “I’ve been surprised with the variety of ways people have tried it. Some even make lattes with it.”
Schroeder and the staff at Ritual tried more than 40 cold brews before choosing coffee beans that were grown in Gigante, Colombia, between 1,400 and 1,900 feet elevation. The coffee’s flavor has hints of chocolate, citrus, and currant, complemented by the very subtle cannabis notes.
The cannabis oil was extracted through a carbon dioxide distillate process, stripping the plant material of its natural terpenes, or aromatic molecules. Schroeder wanted the weed as flavorless as possible so the coffee’s flavor would stand out.
To make the cannabis cold brew, Ritual roasts the coffee beans first before delivering them to Somatik’s manufacturer. There the beans are steeped for 12 hours in cold water to produce a concentrate, which is then mixed with THC oil. The oil comes from various sativa-indica hybrid strains of cannabis grown outdoors in Northern California.
Although Somatik isn’t the first to attempt cannabis coffee, it is the first to partner with a well-established SF favorite, and brand the bud as a gourmet cold brew. VICE’s food channel Munchies once put out a recipe for Bulletproof coffee, infused with a gram of cannabis mixed into butter, while the San Diego-based company Brewbudz put out THC-infused, single-use coffee pods.
However you take your cannabis and coffee, the pair go so well together because caffeine enhances the effects of THC. In an experiment with squirrel monkeys, scientists hooked up the monkeys to a device that released THC intravenously when they pulled a lever. They trained the monkeys to know that pulling the lever would make them feel high. Once the monkeys were adequately familiar with the lever’s effects on them, the scientists gave them a caffeine analog in the form of MSX-3. The dose of one mg/kg of MSX-3 was worth less than half a cup of coffee, but under the influence, the monkeys pulled the THC lever less often than usual. The caffeine analog magnified the effects of the THC so that they wouldn’t feel the need for more.
In the second part of the experiment, the scientists split the monkeys into two groups. One group received only THC, while the second had a combination of THC and MSX-3. While all the monkeys continued to pull the THC lever, the second group pulled it more often. The scientists concluded that while caffeine makes the effects of cannabis stronger, it also makes it more difficult to quit using either cannabis or coffee if you have a simultaneous habit.
The famous duo play off each other, both chemically and culturally. “The cannabis and coffee cultures are really similar, there’s a lot of overlap” Schroeder says, noting how people often come together over a cup of coffee or a joint. A couple dispensaries in the Bay Area are even readying for on-site consumption, where customers can hang out, read a book, work on their laptops, or chat. It looks like a revival of the Dutch (marijuana) “coffee shop” vibe — now literally, thanks to weed-infused coffee.