How To Spot High Grade Hemp Flower
Phrases like “Top Shelf”, "High End", "Premium" & "High Grade" get frequently tossed around in the hemp flower industry, probably because after years of being dealt low grade industrial hemp flower, littered with seeds and stems, we’re all desperate for something better and we finally have choices.
Juicy, fat, succulent, sugary, well-trimmed, organically grown, long-cured, pungent, sweet hemp nugs are just a few of the words we use to describe what’s on the top shelf. They’re the cream of the crop, the cultivators best selection, and therefore, the most expensive.
But with so many “Hemp Cups” and awards that are seemingly handed out to prized cultivators like candy, it’s hard to know which CBD nugs are truly top shelf. We investigate how to identify top shelf hemp by breaking down the key characteristics you can use to help identify those that make the cut.
COLOR AND TEXTURE (DENSITY)
The color and texture of hemp buds have a lot do with the strain’s phenotype and how it’s grown. The soil, amount of light or water, the use of fertilizers (whether organic or synthetic) all affect the strains traits, which results in the density, color, and shape of the finished hemp bud. Dense hemp buds generally correlate with an indica dominant strain whereas airy open buds correlate with a sativa dominant hemp strain.
Top shelf hemp buds are well-manicured, tight trimmed, often sugary and sticky from the trichomes. They should almost shimmer in the light from the trichome density. This is only a general insight, as some top shelf hemp strains can actually be less than aesthetically pleasing. Due to genetics they may lean towards darker colors like brown or greyish purple.
We have read some articles that claim all high end cannabis or hemp flower must look bright and vibrant in appearance, but unfortunately this is not always true.
Once you have been growing and smoking hemp flower for long enough, you realize you can't fully judge a book by its cover. Take away, looks are not everything. You can tell quite a bit from the trim, color and density, but there are other factors to top shelf hemp buds.
Similar to wine, each strain is unique in its own terpene profile. There are two factors that affect the nose of a strain: genetics and curing. Genetics is just that, the buds genetic makeup, whereas curing is a process that takes place after harvest. Within the genetics factor, it’s important to take into account that there are over 200 terpenoid compounds have been identified in the hemp plant. This is what results in the aroma, flavor and therapeutic effects you get after smoking. Eight of these compounds are most frequently found in common hemp strains.
Curing is the second and arguably most important final stage in cultivating hemp flower because if a strain is improperly cured, all the energy and resources that went into growing the plant won’t be fully recognized if the buds don’t reflect the phenotype traits. For example, hemp buds can take on the smell of hay due to a build-up of chlorophyll if they’re not burped (opening the jars to let out the CO2 during curing). If too much moisture is present, the buds can mold, or take on a rotten smell. Even the length of curing can influence the finish. At Dreamland Organics our minimum cure time is 6 weeks, but prefer to cure for 3 months. Top shelf hemp flower should reflect the terpene profile and phenotype of the strain and it should not smell like hay.
Without getting too deep into discussing the chemical makeup of the hemp plant, it’s important to know the basic chemistry so you can understand why you feel a certain way after you smoke a certain hemp strain. Coined by Israeli organic chemist and leading cannabis expert, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, “The Entourage Effect” is the combination of over eighty-five different cannabinoids reacting with your cannabinoid receptors after you consume the buds. There are six primary cannabinoids that are most common where THC and CBD are the major cannabinoids that make up 8-20% and 1-4% of the overall potency, respectively. The other four minor cannabinoids, CBN, CBC, CBG, and THCV make up less than 1% of the overall potency.
CBD potency, which is non psychoactive, is like THC’s counter, resulting in a calming, therapeutic feeling. Top shelf hemp buds should give you the effect that is described and is advertised, but everyone is different so there may be subtle differences in feeling. High Grade Hemp should be potent, so if you’re a "one-hitter-quitter," then you should proceed with caution. The effects should be felt immediately and you shouldn’t have to smoke much to feel its power. Low quality hemp may not give you the full “entourage effect,” although these chemicals are clearly at work. This is because it may be extremely low in some of the cannabinoids & terpenes previously described. Therefore, in order to achieve a desired effect, you may have to smoke more of the low quality hemp, than you would top shelf CBD flower, given the lower level cannabinoids and potency.
In summary, top shelf hemp should be therapeutic and potent, colorful and vivid, tasteful and terpene rich, and it should reflect the phenotype of the hemp strain by fully embodying its traits.