In the 1846 essay "Le Club des Hachichins," published in the French literary magazine Revue Des Deux Mondes, journalist and literary Renaissance man Théophile Gautier recounted his visit to the Parisian hotel that hosted a club where great men got stoned. Baudelaire was there, and Balzac, Hugo, and Dumas. "It was in an old house on the Ile St Louis, the Pimodan hotel built by Lauzun," Gautier wrote, "where the strange club which I had recently joined held its monthly séance. I was attending for the first time."
This gaggle of littérateurs would meet to imbibe a potent, foreign, and frankly delicious sounding cannabis-laced coffee concoction called dawamesk, a "greenish jam" comprised by hashish, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, sugar, orange juice, butter, and cantharides. (Their gatherings were, apparently, equally as foreign: As Gautier arrives, a "vigorous shout shook the sonorous depths of the ancient edifice. 'It's he! It's he!' cried some voices together; 'let's give him his due!'") The "due," of course, was, in their cultish parlance, a spoonful of paradise.
I had "Le Club de Hachichins" in mind as I waited for my own due in the crowded second storey of a self-described "lifestyle boutique" in Seattle's International District on a recent rainy Sunday morning. There was a DJ spinning Toots and the Maytals, a large projector screen playing anime, and a sea of broad-shouldered Seahawks fans forever stoked for that Sunday's game and the store's donation-based glass-testing policy. I'd driven up from Portland for a monthly public event there showcasing a weed-infused bulletproof coffee—that butter and fatty acid-slicked brew Silicon Valley health nuts co-opted from the traditional yak butter tea drunk by rugged Central Asians in the Himalayas.
The shop, called Trichome—a reference to the filamentous outgrowths on plants anyone who's ever seen a cover of High Times will recall in Hi-Def—had a minimalist design aesthetic, and was filled with a smattering of reliably thematic knick-knacks, from hoodies to pipes, to the newfangled electronics with which people partial to pot are intimately familiar. But most of the crowd was there for something else: the unique promise of a caffeinated, synergistic variant to the tired wake-and-bake routine. In an era of legalized recreational pot, old habits can cause coughing and dry mouth.
Upstairs, three baristas stood against a wall armed with scales, gooseneck kettles, and electric mixers. They conversed with patrons as they whipped together amped-up versions of what Fast Company recently called the "new power drink of Silicon Valley." Although some scientific benefits of "bulletproofing" your coffee with butter and fatty acids—a sustained, brimming physical and mental energy, hunger suppression, weight control—are largely unsubstantiated, those who drink it swear by it. And many have. In the wake of the trend's success ("Bulletproof" is trademarked), it was only a matter of time before that special stratum of high functioning, body conscious stoners opted to consolidate routines. At Trichome, this will run you $11.50 with taxes and a service fee.
After a good 30-minute wait, my name was called and I walked with some friends over to a station where a man named John walked us through the process. After choosing the beans (Guatemala or Papua New Guinea), he carefully prepared a V60 pour over. As the coffee brewed, he set another vessel on a scale, squeezed off a two-inch long pad of butter from a frosting bag, and reached for a plastic squeeze bottle with a pale green, viscous liquid inside.
"Our goal here is to offset the caffeine from the coffee with just a little bit of THC, so you get this really sustaining, synergistic effect with the coconut oil, the grass-fed butter, the THC, and the caffeine," John said as he carefully measured the drips of greenish oil from the bottle. "Two-and-a-half grams of this coconut oil only contains about ten milligrams of THC." "Oh, wow, OK" I said, trying to mask how unsure I was about what this meant for the rest of my day.
"You guys aren't going to be, like, crazy high, you're just going to feel sustained," John said. I breathed a sigh of relief—I've never been good at ingesting weed. He poured the finished coffee into the vessel, and with an immersion blender I might use for a quick soup, spun the ingredients into a frothy, heady liquid that resembled an especially oily latte, poured it in a paper cup and pointed us to a nearby dim sum restaurant.
Potable pot is nothing particularly new—Le Club de Hachichins and their Middle Eastern influences can lay claim to that—nor is the legal market for it. In Colorado, where recreational sales kicked off last January, companies like Dixie Elixirs, an edibles company that has a line of sleek sodas (Old Fashioned Sarsaparilla, anyone?), saw their sales increase fivefold since legalization. States with medical marijuana laws have allowed the sale of "drinkables," like sodas from the heavy-handed Canna Cola, and a variety of products from the Venice Cookie Co., which makes everything from "Quenchers," to "Subtle Teas," to "Not-So-Virgin" olive oil. In Washington, Mirth Provisions already sells a line of sodas, and is trying to launch a weed-infused cold brew coffee that will allow customers to "swim off into a day of work or play filled to the brim with pure joy," which sounds exhausting.
But Trichome's unique café set up, complete with local grass-fed butter, light roasted beans, and a precise pour over process, seems to be the first to crossover into a valuable market in which a generally young, affluent crowd cares about sustainability in sourcing, individuality in small-batch, intricate nuances in technique, and overall quality—not to mention innovative personal healthcare. They're willing to pay top dollar for it, too.
The store doesn't have a license to serve cannabis from the Washington Liquor Control Board, which oversees recreational pot sales, but operates with the silent blessing of the Seattle Police Department. "There are opportunities for people to not be breaking the law, and we certainly would prefer that," a spokesman for the SPD told me by phone. But another SPD spokesperson told the city's Stranger, "we do have our priorities, and those priorities start with violent crime, property crime, and other quality-of-life issues."
The waiting crowd had a palpable sense of excitement about trying something new, and in a public place, no less. The sturdy promise of a different, energizing sort of high is an appealing one. Tolerance varies, and that's something the event's coordinators keep in mind. "A lot of people coming to these events, they're pretty new," Richard Saguin, one of the company's owners told me. "Maybe it's their first time, or they've been out of touch with cannabis for a long time, so we definitely have to keep that in mind."
If only that promise came true. After about 20 minutes, my friend and I began to feel the coffee creeping into our perceptions. It seemed to follow the course of a usual edible high, expanding through the whole body in a coursing river of giggles, paranoia, and isolating inward contemplation.
The next five or six hours were a blur. We stopped in a teashop for a tasting, and the tender's voice reverberated in our heads. "So smooth," he said of an oolong, "so smooth." We walked aimlessly around the International District and west toward the water. The scene outside a Union Gospel Mission for men was depressingly bleak, and a cold antique store, where everything was inexplicably covered in thick dust was endlessly fascinating. A walk through the bustling Pike Place Market proved tranquil and confusing. We sipped tea while trying to remember where the car was parked.
I was supposed to stop back by the shop to interview the owners but, according to a message in my outbox sent about an hour-and-a-half after I took the first sip, "Something came up and I had to bounce." The whole time I tried to keep in mind how I've never had a good time ingesting weed. But that's what made the promises of the bulletproof experience so appealing in the first place. One thing was certain though: it was raining and I was in Seattle, stoned and unsustained.