Tips & Tricks from a twice certified cannabis sommelier
While coffee experts are called “cuppers” and cheese experts “fromagers”, the experts that examine your bud are called “Interpeners”. I’ve been one for roughly two years, beginning my cannabis career with the title of “Lead Interpener” at a less-than-legal cannabis store. Bud would come vaccum-sealed with very little other information, and it was my job to determine how it would be sold to clients with medical needs. Only after the legal industry swept in did I begin refining my skills, and sought formalized courses; similar to how a sommelier would have to get a piece of paper to verify their skill. Well, I have two, and I’m here to cut past the B.S and figure out what to grab at your local pot shop.
Research, Research, Research
Lots of consumers will go into a store with little-to-no idea of what they want to smoke. The vast majority of them have very little knowledge of what is currently offered and are chasing the old highs they got from “a buddy”. The best thing about a legal market is transparency; you have more information at your fingertips about what you’re smoking than anyone else in the history of time - use it!
Interpeners often use several factors when examining flower, such as genealogy, user reviews, growing conditions, and even the Quality Assurance reports. Depending on the cultivar and producer, you may just need to Google, or you might need to reach out directly to who produced it to get your answers.
Resources, like Reddit, contain communities specific for each province, allowing you to see photos of the flower and read user reviews. Lift & Co. has every producer and the product, with the added insurance that someone must provide their receipt to prove it really is the bud you’re looking at that they’re reviewing!
Furthermore, there are always the producers themselves! They are itching to share information about their brand and in my experience will always provide you with more than the information you needed to gauge if the flower is worth your time. Keep in mind, however, they will be a little biased.
Try Different Versions of the Same Thing
Cannabis enthusiasts will generally have a “favorite cultivar” if you ask; a certain herb that has unique properties from the flavour to the effect. This unique quality is known as the “typicity” of the flower. My example would be Jack Herrer; this NLDM (narrow-leaf dominant marijuana) has a certain aroma and flavour I’ve learned through trying many different batches and grows. If I had twenty samples in front of me, there is a high probability that through my many experiences, I would be able to identify it. This skill can easily be learned by sampling different L.P’s versions of the cultivar - all of them will differ slightly, but you will learn that unique trait eventually through your sampling. Further benefit other than blind identification is you will learn how this cultivar should express, it’s “correctness”, helping you to identify which cut is the best.
The Nose Knows
When presented with a new food that may look a little sketchy, what is the first thing you do? You smell it. Scent is an amazing tool that can help our body distinguish what we should and shouldn’t ingest; this is true in the cannabis world too! While certified Interpeners will be able to identify a ton of different factors through scent, very little of that information will translate into identifying whether or not the flower is right for you. As a consumer in a legal market, jars will be sealed, but there is a way to circumvent! Plenty of legal stores do have “sensory jars” in which cannabis flower is placed in a secure pod that you can still manipulate and smell. While the flower may have been there a while, (the scent may be weaker & less true to how it was during harvest) you’ll be able to get an idea of how the flower smells and therefore tastes! Don’t bother trying to identify which terpenes are in the mix, ask yourself “Do I Like This”? If the answer is “yes”, you’re headed in the right direction.
Rely on Your Budtender
The number one mistake I see being made in dispensaries goes as follows: someone inexperienced in the legal market comes in - they have a general idea of what they want, but no idea where it could be. They’re looking around, eyes wide, when a budtender approaches to ask”
“Can I help you find something”?
“No, just looking”.
As someone who worked in retail for nearly the majority of my life; I get it. Generally, when speaking with a retail employee, you may feel pressured to buy. The difference is, you’re not getting a sweater you’re getting a psychotropic drug. You can return a sweater, not an eighth.
Budtenders are there for education, yes to sell too, but they’re there because it’s okay to not know what you’d like! Chat up your local budtender, ask them what they like, then describe what you like! They may ask you a few questions to help you narrow it down; just answer and let them lead you to some great flower!
Invest in a Jeweler's Loupe
When most people get their jar of cannabis in the bag, they consider their job done. If you want to be more discerning, it has just begun. On Amazon, you can easily find a Jeweler's Loupe for under $20 with both a blacklight and a LED - get it. Examining under a blacklight will help examine for contaminants you don't want to smoke: think mold, contaminants, & bugs. Using the LED will let you examine for the finer aspects such as trichome expression and ripeness. Through using my Jeweler's Loupe, even in the legal market, I’ve saved myself countless times from smoking mold, and gave myself the chance to reach out to the producers to right the wrongs.