The Darknet markets have revolutionised drug-taking in the UK. Since the early days of Silk Road, up to the current host of illegal online marketplaces, tech-savvy consumers have had access to a huge range of illegal substances, from prescription drugs to LSD and heroin. However, when it comes to drug-infused edibles, it's slim pickings for British drug users in search of domestic products. While vendors based in America peddle everything from fentanyl lollies to MDMA gummy sweets, the listings of UK-made edibles on the Darknet are largely limited to brownies or chocolate mixed with homegrown cannabis. But one UK vendor is bringing more to the table. Since setting up shop in March 2016, Fat Freddy's Cat has become one of the most high profile edibles producers on the AlphaBay and Dream Market Darknet sites, and the only one selling food made with that longstanding British hallucinogen: magic mushrooms.
Freddy (not his real name, for obvious reasons) is the spokesman for Fat Freddy's Cat. He's a retired school teacher and deals with the admin side of the business, collecting orders and answering customers' questions. The other two members are Betty and Al, a pension-age husband and wife team who work together to create the edibles.
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"We have been making edibles for personal use for many years, ever since we first tried bhang lassi [a cannabis-based yogurt drink] whilst travelling India during the 1970s," Freddy tells me. "We only started selling edibles on the Darknet markets to help supplement our pensions."
Unusually for drug dealers, health and safety is a priority for the Fat Freddy's Cat team, with a prominent notice on their marketplace profile page stating that all items are made to the current UK hygiene standards.
"One of us has been a private chef for many years, travelling around the world cooking for the wealthy," Freddy explains. "They have access to a professional kitchen to make our products in a nice clean environment." They're also one of the few vendors with a recognisable brand, using unique logos and technicolour packaging for each item. It's a refreshing change from the dimly lit photos and dry stat-based listings of rival Darknet drugs sellers.
"We take great pride in our products and feel that they should be packaged properly," says Freddy. "We want our customers to enjoy the experience." Initially dealing solely in cannabis-laced foods such as honey, fudge, and chocolate, the team noticed a gap in the market and began to develop magic mushroom chocolates.
"We decided to put them up for sale to see if there was any demand, and they sold like hot cakes," says Freddy.
This led to the launch of other psilocybin edibles, such as honey and tea, with plans for more.
"We're inundated with orders in the run up to Christmas, but hope to launch mushroom-based truffles, syrups, and candy bars in the new year," he adds.
Fat Freddy's Cat's most popular mushroom edibles are the psychedelic chocolate mushrooms, which use vanilla and dark chocolate ganache to mask the harsh mushroom taste. But like every smart culinary cottage industry, the full cooking process is a trade secret, even within the team.
"The cook told me it's a closely guarded secret and she won't tell me," says Freddy. While less scrupulous dealers would simply buy their dried mushrooms online, Fat Freddy's Cat have their own exclusive source of golden teacher mushrooms grown "by a trusted associate who has been an amateur mycologist for years." Despite their success so far, the Freddy's team have no plans to move into creating edibles with harder drugs like LSD or MDMA. This is mainly for practical reasons.
"There is no point," says Freddy. "The one problem with shrooms is that they taste horrible, which is a barrier to people trying them."
Sticking with shrooms also suits the brand's flower child image, prioritising organic drugs over synthetic chemicals. Even the customer reviews match Fat Freddy's Cat's homespun vibe. The mushroom blue honey listing page has feedback from various loved-up couples describing how they tripped together after sharing a jar.
It's this kind of savvy branding that has helped Fat Freddy's Cat stand out from the crowd. They represent a new wave of edibles sellers, possessing marketing know-how and cooking experience to rival many legitimate businesses.
"We're doing very nicely at the moment and continuing to expand," says Freddy. "Roll on legalisation!"
Indeed, if the UK Government follows America in relaxing its drug laws, this seasoned trio of free spirits will be primed to dominate the world of legal highs.