Shortly after the first hash pairing, the bright high hits me. I go silent and get lost in the scene—the light glistening off the water, the spectacular red expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the short bell-like dings and creaks produced by boats rocking in the harbor. My host Sarah Jain Bergman notices my silence and laughs. She can tell this hit got me lifted. It’s a beautiful spring day in the San Francisco Bay, and we’re dabbing a selection of incredibly flavorful hash rosins. Bergman, who has built a personal brand as a hash sommelier, is curating the experience, pairing blueberries with Z x Strawnana. The combination tastes like a fruit smoothie.
As a hash sommelier, Bergman marries the flavors of cannabis concentrates with food. Like wine sommeliers present wine and food pairings so that fine diners can experience all aspects of wine appreciation, Bergman is a connoisseur of all things hash. She doesn’t drink, but she’s a supertaster when it comes to terpenes—where the flavors and aromas of both hash and wine originate.
“I appreciate flower, but concentrates are where it’s at for me flavorwise,” she says. “With concentrates, it’s just a cleaner, clearer high. The flavor, it’s just more pure.”
The cannabis flower for the Z x Strawnana hash rosin was grown by Mendoja Farms and processed by West Coast Alchemy. In cannabis these details align with understanding both a grape grower and a winemaker when it comes to enjoying a bottle of wine.
Cannabis concentrates isolate the resinous glands (the trichomes) on the cannabis flower, where terpenes and cannabinoids are located, and remove them from the plant material.
“I find that the plant material sometimes gets in the way of the pairings,” Bergman says, explaining why she prefers cannabis concentrates over flowers. “[Hash is] terpenes and everything that I want, without having to taste that green of plants. That material, a lot of it’s really not that good. I mean, it’s fucking grass [laughs]. At the end of the day, I’m not a fan of chlorophyll.”
Bergman grew up in Texas but has lived in California for 15 years. She first moved to LA to do the “model/acting thing” and has been between the San Francisco Bay Area and Europe ever since. She experienced smoking cannabis at a young age and has an early childhood memory of her dad deseeding a leafy green substance explaining, “These are the seeds we feed to the birds.” Her dad, she says, loved hash.
“And looking at things as I get older, I’m like, ‘I am my father’s daughter,’” she says.
In the course of her own appreciation for hash, Bergman has hosted elite international competitions and now collaborates with cannabis brands to host hash tastings with food pairings that started with fruit, cheese, and chocolate but have developed to include full meals. During her hash sessions, she adopts many concepts that align with the practices of wine tasting.
“Hash” is a catch-all term for concentrates, which have matured in terms of the way they are processed and also the way they are enjoyed. One of the current trends in hash is the growing popularity of “solventless” concentrates, or those produced without the use of a chemical solvent. This category includes hash rosin, cannabis flowers made into ice water hash and then pressed with heat.
After ice water hash is pressed with heat, it creates “fresh press” hash rosin, which is translucent. The material is then often “cold cured” or whipped into a badder-like cloudy consistency and set in a room temperature environment. This extra step, Bergman explains, helps to stabilize the shelf life of hash rosin.
As with wine which is highly susceptible to environmental changes, the proper storage of cannabis concentrates is essential.
Both fresh press and cold cured hash rosin should be stored chilled—in a refrigerator or a portable cooler—to retain texture and freshness. Hash rosins are brought up to room temperature only when they are ready to be enjoyed.
If appropriately stored, hash can be aged.
“What I think we’re ultimately looking towards is hash storage,” Bergman says. “Hash especially is the only market where there’s a way to store it, and five, 10 years later if you do it properly, it can still be as good from the day it was packaged. But, like a bottle of wine, it will begin to deteriorate from the moment that it comes to temp and is opened.”
A key element of dabbing is the consumption gear. Puffco produces several of the most popular e-rigs on the market that come with a ceramic nail and work well on the go. But, applying the luxury wine-tasting ethos of using a decanter and specific stemmed glasses to tasting hash, Bergman believes the supreme way to taste a dab is with a quartz nail.
“Where this is going is like more high-end liquor,” she says of hash trends. “If you were to look at [hash] in the same way as wine or liquor, even right down to the consumption method and tasting method, most random people are smoking flower or vape carts. Most people are drinking shitty beer out of cans or fucking red cups. You know? Then you start to get into your craft beer people, who might start to know the brands but are still buying dispensary weed. Then you get into the people who really nerd out on it.”
During our tasting session, Bergman uses a torch to heat a quartz nail attached to her dab rig and uses a device called TempTech to check the temperature of the quartz. Depending on what type of cannabis concentrate is being dabbed as well as the overall temperature of the room or outside environment, the sweet spot, Bergman explains, is anywhere between 480° to 560° Fahrenheit.
“What we really need is for like the Germans or the Swiss to get really into dabs, like on that level, and for them to start building some high-tech functional shit,” Bergman says. “Even like Puffco, it’s a great product. It’s like your Toyota or your Honda. It’s great because anything is replaceable. But I want to see, like that Mercedes, BMW of dabs. Something with a quartz.”
Tasting in a Clean Glass
When evaluating wine, it’s essential to have a clean glass. Bergman keeps her glass rig meticulously clean and has a methodology for cleaning her quartz nail after each hit by dunking it in 91% isopropyl alcohol. This step ensures that no residue is left behind so that the quality and flavor of each hit are not compromised. Most dabbers don’t take the step of dunking the nail in alcohol after each hit, opting instead for a Q-tip to clean the nail after each dab.
The idea behind the appeal of the pairings is that the terpenes in the food intensify the flavors and effects of the terpenes in the concentrates. During our tasting, the three dabs I took—paired with blueberries, raspberries, and chocolate—left me high for hours.
Terpenes are the aromatic chemicals found in cannabis and all sorts of other botanicals such as fruits and cacao. In the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook cannabis cultivation expert Ed Rosenthal speculates that mangoes, which contain myrcene, may help THC cross the blood-brain barrier (the network that allows substances to reach the brain) faster. Bergman expands upon the idea of eating mangoes to enhance a high with the terpenes in other fruits like blueberries, which contain terpenes that are also found in weed, eucalyptol (aka cineole) and linalool.
This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.