In Los Angeles, the best part of waking up … is straight-edge weed coffee in your cup.
It was bound to happen in California, with the recent boom of third-wave coffee roasters opening up everywhere—and the fact that we are not as cool as our stateside neighbors that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana yet. Why not hotbox the hell out of green coffee beans just to impart that characteristically skunky, grassy flavor, even if it doesn't include the THC? Move over artificially-flavored hazelnut coffee: Here comes weed-flavored coffee that is 100-percent legal to buy in any state.
"It all started when I was hanging out with some baristas in Denver, Colorado … "
I'm talking to 28-year-old Kian Abedini as he carefully pours a steady stream of precisely measured hot water into a coffee dripper filled with a pile of medium-ground coffee. He sourced this batch from Ethiopia and vaporized it with cannabis a few days ago. He tells me that he had just successfully sphered a cup of coffee finally, too.
Who the hell is this guy, and do I even want to taste weed-infused coffee that won't get me high?
It was too late. I paid for parking and found myself at his pop-up coffee shop in downtown's Historic Core neighborhood, where there are at least ten other coffee shops within a one-mile radius. He was already there—beard and all—brewing me a cup of Mary Joe. But the aroma that immediately wafted from the bloomed coffee did not smell like a freshly-sparked jay, nor a vaporized nug; it just smelled like freshly-brewed, really good coffee. Which threw me off at first, since I've had my fair share of canna-everything as a native Millennial of Los Angeles: canna-caramel popcorn, herb-coconut ice cream, medicated agua de jamaica, and even straight-up weed-infused mint breath strips made from pure dehydrated THC.
He then pours me some in a mug, and I take my first sip of the black coffee and wait patiently for that unmistakable flavor. Like a true coffee snob, I pause to examine the coffee's texture first, and under the incandescent lights, the coffee's surface did appear a little oilier than usual. Finally, after swishing the coffee around like one does with a glass of expensive-ass wine, I finally picked up the faintest marijuana flavor imaginable. It was not unlike some of those naturally-occurring herb flavor profiles found in some herbaceous coffees already, like those sourced from Sumatra for example. "The skunkiness is right at the end," Abedini tells me in a dead serious tone.
"People that like to smoke also tend to like drinking coffee, and I thought it was about time to bridge the two communities together." He acknowledges that coffee culture can get snobby real quick, so he swore to himself that this mash-up of countercultures would be more egalitarian and approachable.
And because the only high that you will get is caffeine high, this bag of faded coffee is 100-percent legal to purchase without a medical license in any state.
But still, the question remains: In the million-dollar industry of medicated foodstuffs, is there a market for weed-flavored stuff that is just there for flavor and not to get faded?
Ricardo Cervantes—founder of the local La Monarca Bakery chain, who prides himself on sourcing his single-origin coffee and is about to open their seventh location in the city—isn't buying it. "As a purist, I personally wouldn't try it. Why mask high quality coffee beans with any kind of flavoring—weed or not? But the customer will ultimately decide."
Nonetheless, Abedini is sticking to his vaporizer guns. "I think the next step for weed is for it be used for flavor in a recipe, instead of medicine. It's a really nice vegetal, musky flavor and adds contrast to sweetness, if you think about it." He informs me that there has been a steady flow of customers "of all backgrounds," since his launch.
For you weed varietal enthusiasts, Abedini uses a sativa strain of shake (weed crumbs). He says there is no detectable difference between using top shelf whole bud varietals and their lower-cost shake counterpart.
"Cannabis is currently less-taboo in the mainstream than it has ever been. I think the transition from medicine to flavoring has already begun. If it's not so expensive to use, obviously," Abedini says.
He pinpoints his inspiration for his weed-conditioned coffee as a plate of tea-smoked duck that he had in the New York City in 2010: "I thought smoking with tea was just such a novel and weird way of infusing flavors at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense." He also did some research on coffee, which led him to the conclusion that coffee is on its way to becoming a scarce luxury pretty soon.
"Why not start treating it like caviar already, right now?" He says, grimly.
Abedini affirms that he rarely ever smokes weed for recreational purposes anymore. Except when he's making the coffee, that is, since he really is essentially hotboxing the coffee beans before they're roasted, a process known as "green coffee conditioning."
"I want to be the Ferran Adrià of coffee," he says.
While those might be some high ambitions, I admit that I didn't mind having weed-flavored coffee first thing in the morning. But then again, I love adding half-and-half and coconut sugar to my shit, too.