The rise of CBD products is prevalent, with a growing number of options through which to consume it. While the effects may be familiar to veteran users, there’s confusion for those more inexperienced, particularly considering rising availability in types of products and experiences, including facials, coffees, lotions, flower, and countless more. The confusion around it is akin to that of a vitamin; is there an actual effect or is it more of a placebo situation? The debate among users is persistent, but CBD products continue to gain traction, with a few companies making real ground.
Buddha Beans, a small company of a handful of people, is emerging as a product with great intentions and even better delivery. As someone who enjoys multiple cups of coffee in the morning, Buddha Beans has eliminated the usually inevitable shakiness, teeth-grinding, and crash that non-CBD coffee leaves me with. Those symptoms are now replaced with a calm focus. Over a cup of their infused Mexican bean coffee, we discussed the development, effects, and genesis of their product.
Hannah Ward: So what is Buddha Beans and how did it come to be?
Lucy Hodges: We’re a CBD infused coffee company based out of Los Angeles. We’re a small team right now but interviewing people and trying to keep up with the demand.
Marc Narrie: We started as roasters and then fell in love with CBD, so we found a way to combine the two.
LH: We were roasting coffee out of a hot air popcorn maker in the backyard, just as a hobby. We wanted to drink good coffee but not spend a lot of money on it. We started giving and selling to family and friends. From there we thought okay, we’ve got something here, and then we wanted to take it to the next level. We decided we had to differentiate ourselves, and CBD was our first choice to do that.
MN: The name came before the product, when we started selling regular coffee, then it fell into place with CBD and cannabis. I was studying Buddhism at that time so that’s the main reason I thought of it.
LH: We see it tying into CBD because it helps you stay grounded. The alliteration was a plus.
HW: So what is a coffee roaster, what does that job look like?
MN: There are a lot of different factors that go into it. The coffee is a green bean, which most people don’t know. There are three different factors we’re working with while roasting: temperature, the amount of air flow and the drum speed, so you have to make sure that you’re adjusting those three factors to make the temperature of the bean go up steadily.
HW: Does the process of roasting change with CBD?
MN: There are some things that have to be changed in the roasting process but it is similar. We don’t tell people how we do it because it’s a trade secret.
HW: How long have you guys been going with the CBD product?
MN: We started last June but then we got shut down until mid July.
HW: Why were you shut down?
MN: First we tried Etsy but we hadn’t read all the regulations and they don’t allow anything hemp on there. We tried Square and eventually they shut us down, Paypal shut us down too. It took us a while, we’d be up and running then get shut down, up and running, shut down, etc. Now we’re up and running but credit card processing is difficult at the moment.
HW: Is that throughout the nation or just California?
MN: Banks aren’t supporting the purchase of any cannabis, so it doesn’t matter if it’s hemp or marijuana, but it’s changing.
LH: There are some that are, but to get in is super competitive because everyone is flooding to them. Every big beverage company pretty much has a product lined up, they just haven’t released it to the public yet. They’re ready to go once the FDA approves it. Our goal is to be this grassroots company that’s ready to go, and kind of known to be the CBD coffee company that’s been doing it through this obstacle.
HW: What is the law now? What limitations are you facing?
LH: The farm bill passed in December allows hemp to be sold, but that doesn’t include edibles and technically our product falls under edibles. So right now we’re just trying to be careful with making any claims because that’s what the FDA will specifically come after, like if companies are making claims like “this cures cancer” or something.
MN: Supposedly there are three big companies that got cease and desist letters already just because they’re saying their products cure anxiety.
HW: In terms of infusion products, is there a difference between the effectiveness of your products and of what’s on the market right now?
LH: There’s a wide variety of CBD products on the market right now and I think that’s what’s hurting the industry. People are getting their CBD from undisclosed places, which can ruin it for everyone.
MN: There’s good CBD coming out of those places but there’s a lot of bad products…
HW: Because of outsourcing?
MN: Because of outsourcing, but also because of lying and faking lab reports. It’s not regulated that strictly. There are a lot of people getting away with what they say is in it. A lot of times there’s 80% of what’s supposed to be in it or some products have been found to have 0%, particularly with some water and gummy products.
LH: We work directly with a hemp farm in Oregon. It’s an organic, U.S.D.A certified farm and we have all our test results before and after we infuse. We make sure we’re using the highest quality hemp and coffee beans as well.
MN: We pay a premium for our CBD but we want to make sure that it’s consistent.
HW: If lab results can be faked then how do you know that yours are not fake?
MN: We take random samples and get everything sent to a 3rd party lab. We always send the whole bean, which is harder to cheat. They only test a gram at a time, so to cheat it I’d have to do that math to get the CBD just into that one gram. If you have a product that’s easier to infuse it makes it easier to cheat, like gummies for example.
HW: People often say they don’t feel effects from CBD products but is that because they’re expecting to get high? What is the effect supposed to be?
LH: A lot of customers seem to say they can feel an effect after drinking our coffee but that’s kind of how CBD is, everyone has a different tolerance, a different reaction to it, some people may or may not feel anything.
HW: What was the effect you were shooting for?
LH: We both love coffee but I tend to wean away from it because it always makes me feel jittery. I can’t drink a lot of it, I get reliant, I started getting headaches so that’s actually what really was a benefit from our coffee. You can drink it and still feel good, you’re not jittery, you have more of a focus, versus not being able to sit at your desk and needing to walk around.
MN: Drinking coffee is a ritual. We want to keep the experience of coffee, not change the flavor profiles, and infuse CBD so that it can be part of peoples’ everyday lives in an easy way to consume it.
HW: I read on your site that a lot of people are reporting pain relief; there was a construction worker who is convinced it’s your coffee making him feel better. Others reported significant decreases in anxiety. Is that something you intended or was it a happy coincidence?
LH: We’ve both seen those benefits but we were curious as to whether everyone else thought that. So to see what customers have been reporting really makes all the difference.
MN: I know I’ve felt pain and anxiety relief from CBD, we know it’s helped us so much and we wanted to see what other benefits would come about. We knew the anxiety from coffee would be an easy one to tackle but we were definitely curious to see if we could get all the benefits we’ve experienced if we took it into coffee.
HW: Your website mentions an “innovative method.” I know you want to keep it somewhat secret but what can you share about it?
MN: There’s nothing to hide, but I did a lot of research and development. I tried every kind of CBD from powder, liquid, distillate, different forms of isolate, I’ve literally gone through every single type to find what’s best. We’re able to manipulate the CBD so that it can get into the bean.
LH: It’s different from other CBD coffee companies because we’ve heard that people use other ingredients to infuse, specifically oils. We don’t do that; we’re specializing in the whole bean and infusing into the whole bean.
HW: And how does that change the process as opposed to grinding up the coffee then mixing the CBD in?
MN: When you make ours, it doesn’t separate as much. When people put drops of CBD in their coffee, it gets stuck on the edges, it doesn’t get all consumed, you can usually see it in the bottom of your cup or floating on the top. Personally I feel like when I infuse it into the bean it’s absorbed better by my body. There’s nothing medically proven in any of this but I feel the CBD in ours more than I feel it in other products.
HW: What sets you apart from other competitors?
LH: Our price point is really good, especially for the quality.
MN: We’re doing more specific flavor profiles. I can’t say anything bad about those other companies because they make a good product, but I don’t think we infuse the same way. We use more CBD than one of them. We also work with our coffee farm in Colombia directly, which definitely sets us apart. Neither has a cold brew or roasts AND makes the cold brew themselves.
HW: Is there a desire to move into THC?
MN: We would absolutely like to move that way eventually. We get asked weekly when we’re coming out with it. It’s for the people who like to wake and bake, they want to drink their coffee with the THC already in it.
HW: Where can you purchase Buddha Beans?
MN: We have one distributor who buys up front and sells to stores. It’s kind of cool where we’re popping up, we just started growing in Philly, but I think in terms of online customers, we have maybe 200 who buy monthly.
LH: We’re in 60 stores across the U.S., lots of health and wellness stores, CBD stores, gift shops, coffee shops, hair salons, smoke shops…
MN: There are a lot of different avenues to sell it, especially since it’s coffee.
LH: People tend to like us because we’re flexible. We can do custom orders or if they want to white label our product and have us infuse the beans for them to sell with their brand on it, we can do that too. So some other CBD coffee companies might actually be our beans.
MN: White labeling is a big thing in the industry but what we’re doing now is co-labelling, so we’ll have our label and theirs on it. In the beginning people just wanted their label on it because we weren’t as trusted but now that that’s changing, people want our label on it too.
LH: Yeah we really need to draw a map. But every time we enter into a new state, we make sure we’re compliant and able to be in that county. We have to have QR codes for our bags in Indiana so we have a little scannable patch that can take you directly to our lab results so you can see them. We’re excited, we’re actually up-branding our packaging right now so we can be ready to go from boutique to big shelves.
HW: What’s next?
MN: We’ll be bottling and kegging our cold brew by August. We’re already working with a bottling facility. We’re coming out with a new product, still coffee but similar infusions. Definitely cannabis related and it’s super exciting. We’re not too far from retail, we’re in talks with big health food stores and getting into the kinds of places we really love. We are really selective about where we’re sold.
HW: Why is that?
MN: We’re just not a gas station coffee brand. We also don’t really want to be in certain smoke shops. It’s not that we have anything against them it’s just not us.
HW: Well you’re promoting wellness.