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An Insightful Conversation With Jamie Evans: The Herb Somm

Jamie Evans, aka The Herb Somm and Founder of cannabis-infused wine ‘Herbacée’ talks about her journey, cannabis trends and CBD-infused food & wine recipes.

23/06/2022

Jamie Evans is an entrepreneur, author, educator, and sommelier specializing in cannabis, CBD food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. She is the Founder & CEO of Herbacée, a line of cannabis-infused sparkling wines and The Herb Somm, a culinary-meets-cannabis lifestyle blog. With over ten years of experience in the business and connoisseurship of wine, Jaime is a notable personality on Instagram where you can join her for “High Noon Happy Hour”, a cannabis-infused live drink tutorial. She was named the “Most Important Women in Weed” by Green Market Report in 2022. She has also written two books – The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol and Cannabis Drinks and Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home. In this interview Jamie talks about her journey that led to a career in cannabis, Herbacée, do’s and don’ts of experimenting and selecting a cannabis product, and the future of cannabis industry.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? What encouraged you to get into the culinary cannabis and cannabis-infused beverage industry?

My name is Jamie Evans, and I’m the founder of The Herb Somm. The Herb Somm is a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that focuses on the gourmet side of the industry. Alongside my work in the cannabis space, I’m a Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, and French Wine Scholar with over a decade of wine industry experience. 

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Crafting well-made beverages has always been a passion of mine. I fell in love with the gourmet world early on, including learning about drinks and the art of mixology. I’ve always been fascinated with beverages, so it was a natural fit to pursue a career in the wine industry. Eventually, my love for wine and beverages carried over to cannabis, primarily driven by the many similarities between the two. 

When I launched The Herb Somm in 2017, it was before cannabis was recreationally legal in California. At that time, there was a growing movement of cannabis chefs, edible companies, and infused drink brands popping up, which made the gourmet side of the industry appealing. In 2018, I decided to take the next step and began organizing educational cannabis dinners in collaboration with some of the top cannabis chefs to teach people how to consume infused foods safely and responsibly. Since then, my work with The Herb Somm has transferred into two published lifestyle books, The Ultimate Guide to CBD and Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD & THC Beverages at Home, plus a cannabis-infused wine company known as Herbacèe

2. As the Founder of Herbacée, The Herb Somm, and being a Cannabis Influencer, what does your day look like? And what is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is every day is different. I love being active in the cannabis and wine communities, so I frequently go to lunches, networking events, and coffee meetings to help broaden my network. In partnership with Herbacèe’s exclusive launch partner, ONA.life, I’ve also been pouring our Sparkling Rosier at different pop-up events around Marin County. It’s been fun interacting with customers and getting their feedback firsthand. Additionally, there are days when I won’t leave the house because I am writing an article, pitching investors, or working on my blog. There is never a dull moment!

3. Tell us a bit about Herbacée. What inspired you to create Herbacée and how did you get started? 

The inspiration behind Herbacée came from the desire to celebrate Mother Nature's bounty, including the plants, flowers, and herbs that provide us with so many different healing properties. Herbacée (meaning “Herbaceous” in French) also explores the connection between cannabis and the grapevine. Because both of these plants are terpene-rich and offer a wide array of botanical aromas and flavors, my team and I wanted to bring this concept to life in order to inspire the senses.

After working in the wine industry for so many years, creating a balanced and palatable alcohol-free wine has been a thrilling challenge, especially when adding cannabis. While it’s difficult to provide the exact same experience we get from drinking a glass of traditional wine, cannabis-infused wines are unique on their own, but they do start out the same when it comes to production. The first step to creating Herbacée was finding a delicious rosé lot, which I sourced from the Central Coast of California. Our Sparkling Rosier is a “South-of-France” inspired blend made of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.

Herbacée

4. What is unique about Herbacée? Can you tell us a bit about your production process, infusion technology, and cannabis dosage? 

Herbacée is a product that can be enjoyed by anyone curious to explore cannabis beverages. For beginners, this beverage is approachable, offering a balanced ratio of 5 milligrams THC to 5 milligrams CBD per 10-ounce can. Similar to drinking a glass of traditional wine or beer, our Sparkling Rosier presents a mild euphoric experience. For the more seasoned cannabis consumer, Herbacée is sessionable (i.e., you can drink more than one), offering a higher potency based on your preference. 

Herbacée is a perfect alternative to alcohol, so if you’re someone who enjoys wine but looking to cut back, this product is for you. Due to the beverage's bright acidity, it's a perfect companion for pairing with a variety of cuisines and occasions. It’s also considered a "dry" beverage which means limited to no additional sugar has been added, providing a light and refreshing cannabis drink experience. It's much drier than anything on the market, ranking at only 10 calories per can.

5. What was the first thing you did to sell your cannabis-infused wine? And how would you describe Herbacee’s success so far?

To sell my cannabis-infused wine, the first thing I did was find a launch partner. Fortunately, I was able to collaborate with the luxury cannabis delivery company, ONA.life, whose customer base is a perfect audience for Herbacée. Together, we successfully launched the product in Northern California.

Since launching in December, we’ve received great feedback from our customers, who are also wine drinkers. I’ve also assembled an incredible advisory team, including Stephanie Honig, Erin Gore, Rob Mondavi Jr., and Tracey Mason, making us well-positioned to continue to grow the brand with a focus on high-quality wine-based products. Herbacée is truly a cannabis product line for wine drinkers, so we’re very excited to continue to grow the brand this year.

6. According to you, what makes a cannabis brand stand out? What are the important things to keep in mind when marketing a cannabis brand to a canna-curious audience? 

Three things make a cannabis brand stand out: flavor, effect, and eye-catching packaging. When producing an edible or drinkable product, in my opinion, aromas and flavors are the most important to deliver a memorable sensory experience for the consumer. 

Before selling a cannabis product, the first thing to think about is why the consumer wants to use cannabis in the first place. Are they purchasing cannabis for health and wellness purposes? Do they consume as a lifestyle choice for recreational purposes? Or simply are they canna-curious?

From there, focus on a target market in a niche category and dial into specific age groups. It’s important to identify who you want your product to speak to and cater to that audience.

Jamie Evans

7. What can you tell us about changing cannabis trends, customer preferences wrt dosage, and their overall cannabis experience? 

As you begin to experiment with infusions and craft your own cannabis beverages at home, you’re bound to run into some challenges. It’s not a perfect science, so to set you up for success, here are some pitfalls to avoid, which I learned early on:

Avoid using top-shelf products. Commercially made CBD and THC products can be very expensive, especially tinctures. If you have top-shelf items at home, consider setting them aside and looking for a less expensive (but still safe, clean, and lab-tested) option. Creating infusions at home using dry cannabis flower will also help you cut down on costs, pick your own strain, plus you can make the infusion recipes in bulk.

Do not overheat your phytocannabinoids and terpenes! When creating infusions at home, it’s easy to get distracted and accidentally overheat your cannabis flower during decarboxylation or the infusion process. High heat is extremely damaging to both phytocannabinoids and terpenes, so be sure to keep a constant eye on cooking temperatures, and when combined with a liquid, never let your cannabis or hemp flower boil.

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Never underestimate the importance of dosing and calculating potency. While there is no universal standard for how much CBD or THC should be combined into a drink, it’s best to start low and go slow. This is especially important if you’re working with THC-infused ingredients. One of the most common mistakes is accidentally overserving yourself or a guest. If you’re creating homemade infusions, always do the math to estimate the final cannabinoid percentages in each serving based on the specific batch of flower or concentrate that you’re using. Also, be sure to sample a small amount of each batch to gauge potency because every batch will be different.

8. According to you, what things should people avoid or be aware of when picking a cannabis-infused product and experimenting with cannabis at home?

To ensure you are picking the best cannabis and CBD products, there are three things that I like to recommend: 

Know your product from soil to bottle. It’s extremely important to know where your products come from because all cannabis- and hemp-derived products are not created equal! Don’t purchase the first product you see on the internet. Do your research and find a reliable brand.

Look for Third-Party Testing. If a hemp or cannabis company has legitimate third-party testing results, this is a good sign that they are a reliable brand that cares about what they’re producing. I personally believe that any quality brand should have lab results or a Certificate of Analysis that they can share with you. If they don’t, move on. 

Find a Dependable Marketplace. The last step to finding a reliable product is to look for a quality marketplace that vets its selection before it reaches the consumer. Here in California, a good example of this would be ONA.life, where they stand behind every product that they put on their menu.

Herbacée

9. As the author of Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, which recipes or drinks are your absolute favorite?

While there are many delicious recipes found throughout the book, with summer ahead, one of my favorite warm-weather aperitifs is the Blood Orange Aperol Spritz. As a spin-off of the classic Aperol Spritz, this refreshing drink is microdosed with cannabis-infused Citrus Spice Bitters and mixed with fresh citrus juice. In Cannabis Drinks, the recipe includes blood orange juice, but you can easily swap for any citrus that’s in season, including fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice with the pulp removed. Make sure to add a slice of grapefruit to the glass for some extra flavor and aromatics.

I wanted to incorporate an Aperol drink in the book because it’s such a fantastic companion for cannabis’ aromas and flavors as Aperol presents a botanical blend of herbs, roots, and citrus. Because this drink contains a blend of alcohol, the Cannabis-Infused Citrus Spice Bitters is a perfect way to microdose this drink. When mixing cannabis and alcohol, you always want to take precautions and stick with a low-dose of CBD and THC. The bitters also add some lovely spice notes to the drink, which makes it complex and delicious.

Another favorite would be the Spicy Melon Margarita made with fresh watermelon juice, lime juice, infused rich simple syrup, jalapeño chiles, plus more. I’m also a big fan of Blood Mary’s, so I love mixing up the Feisty Mary, which is alcohol-free and infused with my homemade Feisty Sauce and Infused Celery Bitters (plus it includes candied bacon!)

10. What’s next for you? Where do you see the cannabis food and beverage industry in the future?

The future of cannabis drinks is bright! While this category is still nascent, we’ve made some incredible strides forward. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, we can now produce shelf-stable products that maximize bioavailability and taste, which only continue to improve. 

In the next five years, I think we’ll also see the introduction of cannabis-infused beverage bars, solely dedicated to low-dose cannabis drinks. There’s enormous potential when it comes to onsite consumption spaces, which are now beginning to open. I predict New York will be the leading marketplace for onsite consumption spaces and cannabis dining experiences. I’m really excited to see what happens next!

11. What advice would you like to give to young entrepreneurs who want to get into the cannabis industry?

My advice to entrepreneurs looking to get into the cannabis space is to be genuine and to put the time and energy into building a community, which is something that I consider essential when creating a brand. It’s not just about pouring money into a product and hoping it does well. You must connect with your consumer and industry in an authentic way. I chose to focus my efforts on building a community centered around culinary cannabis by hosting unique experiences, creating educational content, and supporting my fellow cannabis industry members who are also focused on this niche. Discover what you’re passionate about, and don’t be afraid to pursue it.

Interviewed by Aanchal Sharma, Beverage Trade Network

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