Let’s not beat around the cannabis bush: We don’t eat edibles because they taste good. We’re not looking to appreciate the nuances of seasonal ingredients, flavors and aromas. We just hope they hide the dank, grassy taste and aroma of sativa and indica.
It’s been that way since way before the dawn of cannabis legalization in Colorado. Those who sampled them know that Boulder’s fabled pot brownies in the 1980s were not exactly gourmet mouthfuls. The first legal edibles in the state didn’t taste very good and the effects were inconsistent.
Trip forward to 2022 and things have improved. Much tastier cannabis food and beverages are available, but the vast majority of what you find at dispensaries are gummies.
People with taste buds started to wonder if this jiggling, childlike delivery vehicle for THC is all there is. Shouldn’t we be able to taste more than sugar and extract?
Now, food-focused artisans in Colorado are crafting edibles that are, well, much more edible from bean-to-bar chocolate, exquisite freshly baked cupcakes, chocolate chip cookie dough and sipping chocolate.
14er was one of Boulder’s original dispensaries, but the company wasn’t initially big on edibles.
“When we started, we didn’t find any edibles that had good quality control so we stayed away from them. We would sell them and people would say either they were too strong or didn’t do anything or they tasted terrible,” says Joe Wright, 14er’s marketing director and co-founder.
Artisan cannabis meets artisan chocolate
As science improved the effectiveness and taste of cannabis extracts, 14er finally started producing its own branded edibles.
“I met Aldo Ramirez Carrasco and Sienna Trapp Bowie from Fortuna Chocolate at the Boulder Farmers Market. I just really loved their mantra, their work ethic, their philosophy, and how much respect they give back to the Mexican culture that the cacao comes from. We got together and started brainstorming how we could collaborate,” Wright says.
“We were excited to make an edible that was actually delicious without that hay taste. The decadence and the luxury of chocolate has always had a special place in consumers’ hearts,” he says. What followed was three months of taste-testing with various kinds of dark chocolate varieties that Wright describes as one of the more pleasant assignments he’s had as a professional.
The result of the Fortuna/14er collaboration are two exquisite, responsibly sourced bean-to-bar experiences infused with very pure THC isolate.
The 70% dark chocolate bar with Maldon salt bar is infused with 20 mg. CBD and 10 mg. THC in each of ten pieces. The delicate salt flakes hit the tongue juxtaposing with the dark berry cacao flavors and sweetness. It’s a chocolate bar for grownup taste buds.
The 55% milk chocolate bar is a rich, creamy experience highlighted with the nuttiness of pistachios and pepitas. In both bars you only catch only bare hints of cannabis flavor and aroma.”
“Creating an edible with Fortuna changed the dynamic, because a lot of dispensaries were just using regular commercial chocolate that doesn’t taste or melt the way this chocolate does,” 14er’s Joe Wight says, adding that the way customers talk about these bars is very different from the usual comments about edibles’ flavor.
14er also produces CBD- and THC-infused fruit chews similar to the cult candy favorite, Hi-Chew (versus Starburst) as well as strain-specific live rosin gummies.
Cupcakes and cookies and wafels, too
Identical twins Stephanie and Susan Silva opened Jade & Jane Bakery in 2016 in Denver because they couldn’t find sophisticated, well-made, delicious cannabis-infused baked goods that were allergen safe and plant based.
“My sister and I have a lot of chronic genetic issues. We look a lot younger and healthier than we feel. Our joints are usually very, very unhappy. I personally use cannabis to keep going, get up, go to work and it helps me deal with a lot of anxiety,” Stephanie Silva says.
An experienced bakery owner and pastry chef in Florida, she applied her skills to producing frosted cupcakes in various sizes with different levels of THC, plus sandwich and shortbread cookies and various bites. With products in dispensaries across Colorado, Silva says that her top-selling edibles are red velvet cupcakes, S’more brownie bites and strawberry vanilla pound cake bites.
Silva says she embraced the trend for lower dose edibles for a simple reason. “Apparently when it comes to THC, I’m a real lightweight so I wanted to bake some edibles that weren’t too strong,” she says. The bakery also sells a dry mudcake mix that dispensaries in rural parts of the state can bake themselves.
“Our products really don’t have any cannabis taste or smell. Part of it is using high-quality baking ingredients. The other is that we use—and sell, our own THC-infused sugar to use in baking.
Silva hopes that eventually she can serve her edibles to customers in a café setting.
Other Colorado dispensaries are also upgrading the taste and freshness of their edibles. For instance, local Igadi dispensaries offer Toll House-like take-and-bake chocolate chip cookie dough, also available pre-baked.
Pagosa Springs-based Colorado Harvest Co. have made a name with its Dutch Girl Stroopwafels, two miniature soft waffles middled with caramel, strawberry, or chocolate each laced with 50 mg. of THC.
Sinsere Chocolates made with cannabis oil and Belgian chocolate are on the menu at Denver’s Love’s Oven, along with hand-crafted peanut butter cups and peppermint patties. f,
Using its own house-made cannabutter, Sweet Grass Kitchens serves up chocolate chip “crop-to-cookie” edibles. Sweet Grass also sells cannabutter sticks for home bakers who don’t want to make their own.
Meanwhile, Coda Signature is also producing artisan chocolate edibles. Also in Denver, the company uses sustainably sourced Latin-American cacao enhanced with top-shelf ingredients in bars such as Caramel & Corn, Cream & Crumble, Salt & Nibs and Coffee & Doughnuts. For a change of pace, Coda’s cannabis-infused Chocolate Edible on a Spoon is designed to be melted into a beverage.
Perhaps the only challenge for consumers enjoying this new generation of artisan edibles is that the sizes are so small for those tasty treats.