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They say timing is everything and, for Ron Silver, the time to shake up the edibles market is now.
In much the same way as tobacco smoking has declined over the last few years, smoking dried cannabis flower has also fallen out of favor. At the same time (and possibly as a consequence) the edibles market has exploded in popularity. Forbes Magazine notes that sales of edibles are rising in states where cannabis is legal. Californians consumed a whopping $180 million worth of edibles in 2016, accounting for more than 10 percent of overall cannabis sales, and this was two years before recreational herb was even legal! Washington State saw a 121 percent rise in edibles sales in 2016, while sales of infused food in Colorado tripled from 2014 to 2016.
The idea of ingesting cannabis orally actually dates back thousands of years. The Chinese brewed cannabis as a tea as far back as 1500 BC. Hindus were drinking bhang, which blended cannabis with warm milk and spices, around the same time. Using hashish as a sort of improvised add-on for coffee was popular among Parisian intellectuals in the 1800s, and cannabis tinctures were available in America from the late nineteenth century, until prohibition became the law of the land in 1937.
Ron Silver, chef and owner of a pair of popular, family-friendly eateries in New York City called Bubby’s, has taken his cue from early cannabis edibles history and added his own unique twist. Instead of concentrating his efforts on creating just another line of candies, cakes or cookies, Silver has introduced Azuca sweetener in his restaurants as a way to soup up coffee, tea and lemonade. (Those drinks are also available without the CBD additive.) “Azuca is an idea that stems from both my career as a chef and entrepreneur,” he says, “as well as my recognition of the cannabis industry’s critical need for trustworthy edibles, both for medical and adult-use purposes.”
By concentrating on a single, stand-alone ingredient instead of a wide range of prepared food or pre-packaged candies, Silver gives the consumer not only a choice about the way in which they use it, but also the ability to control their own dose. “Edibles are notoriously unpredictable in their effects,” he says. “You can never tell how long they will last, when they will hit, or what their overall effect will be. We developed a way of resolving these issues so that the market finally has high-quality, artisan products.” When selected as a prepared add-on at Bubby’s, it comes in at a respectable 25 mg of CBD per teaspoon. When purchased on its own, you’ll be able to add as much or as little as you want.
In order to stay compliant with federal law in states like New York, where cannabis remains illegal, the CBD used in Azuca is sourced from non-psychoactive hemp plants rather than the mind-altering cannabis plants. As Azuca hits the shelves in states where cannabis use is legal, a THC-laced version will be introduced, to be sold through licensed dispensaries, with its roll-out starting in the now cannabis-friendly state of Massachusetts.
Silver uses several different types of sugar to create his product, each with its own distinct flavor and appeal to consumers. You’ll find Azuca made from demerara cane sugar, maple sugar, coconut sugar, stevia, date sugar or agave, and it will be sold in granular form and as a simple syrup. The syrup’s flavor range currently includes almond, ginger, pomegranate, grapefruit and vanilla, which can also be combined to create your own special-taste treat. Predictably, as the brand grows, so will the variety of flavors you’ll be able to experience.
Azuca is hardly Silver’s first exposure to the cannabis plant. An out-and-proud cannabis supporter, his personal history with cannabis$ is long and hands-on. He entered the growing game long before it — and he — was legal. “I liked the idea that you could grow marijuana yourself, that it wasn’t something that just came out of a bottle that a pharmaceutical company gave me. The day I graduated high school was the day that I hitchhiked to Mendocino to grow weed. I really put a lot of effort into that. I was more adept at growing than others, even at an early age. At seventeen, the best grower that I knew was me,” he laughs.
His ability to work the plant, and the effort he puts into it, extends to his current project, too. The patent-pending technology behind Azuca is a respectable advance in culinary science and easily sets it apart from other edibles products on the market. By changing the shape of the cannabis molecule, it becomes more water soluble and is processed by your digestive system instead of your liver. The coating allows for more CBD to be metabolized — most edibles hover around the 2 percent to 6 percent range, while Azuca’s unique makeup will deliver 18 percent to 22 percent of CBD into your system. This technology also gets CBD into your system faster, taking as little as fifteen minutes to do its thing instead of the 60 to 90 minutes most people experience with baked goods and candies.
And the effect? Outstanding. Wanting to steer clear of any interaction between the soothing effects of CBD and my usual caffeine pick-me-up, I avoided coffee and tea and chose the watermelon lemonade. Pink lemonade is on the menu as well. I’d also sidestepped my usual morning coffee so I’d be as clear-headed as possible.
I drank the lemonade during a fairly long crosstown walk and, almost like clockwork, about 15 minutes later, started to feel the CBD. I felt calm and relaxed; even taking the typically frantic ride on the subway back to the Lower East Side wasn’t enough to raise my stress level. I’m no stranger to edibles, so I was pretty surprised when, after getting back to my neighborhood, I was so mellow that I sat down in my local park for almost an hour, people-watching and having a good time. The fact that the watermelon lemonade was some of the best I’ve had in a long time made the experience all the more enjoyable.
A fast-acting safe food additive that relieves stress and actually tastes good? When you think of it, it’s really a pretty sweet idea.