High Up In The Hills: India’s First Hemp Coffee

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Kasol may be synonymous with scenic views and strenuous hikes, but many head to this scenic hill station with a greener goal: cannabis. Although the plant may have been a part of our country’s history since the days of the Vedas, India’s relationship with cannabis has been tumultuous and contentious to say the least. While recreational marijuana use is illegal and taboo, Bhang is sold openly.

The Indian hemp market has multiplied in recent years Shutterstock

Hemp, however, finds itself in the eye of a growing market that uses the plant in a range of industries. Think textiles, food, paper, edible oil and even shoes. Despite this, the level of misinformation regarding cannabis continues to fuel an atmosphere of mistrust in the industry. It was the culture of silence around cannabis use that inspired two childhood friends to open a café that works to spread knowledge and create an open environment for the growing community of cannabis consumers in India.

A date with hemp

Omair Alam and Mayank Gupta
Omair Alam and Mayank Gupta

Omair Alam and Mayank Gupta originally moved to Kasol to establish a specialty cafe. “Maggi and chai are the two clichés of hill stations. There is a perception that you won’t find anything worth consuming without these two constants. We have an insatiable love for coffee and we wanted to open a large coffee shop in Kasol, where we would also offer a diverse range of food options,” describes Omair, as the duo speak to us from Manali.

Kasol
Off limits cafe in Kasol

As the idea slowly took hold, they were exposed to a growing community of cannabis consumers, something that hadn’t been talked about even in a small circle of friends. “I realized that it’s not as important to smoke today as it was a few years ago. Generation Y had embraced the idea of ​​cannabis. The problem around this ecosystem was the level of misinformation on the subject, and not to mention the falsification of products,” adds Omair. This inspired him to launch Dankville, an advocacy platform for the legalization of cannabis.

In its first months, Off Limits was an ordinary cafe in the hills. While hemp products have been around for a long time, creating a hemp ecosystem became the focus for Friends after the FSSAI decision – hemp and its by-products were included as foods. The duo turned to a hemp-infused menu, making Off Limits India the first Hemp Cafe.

Nothing is forbidden here

Except cannabis. Omair and Mayank did not want to “sell thing‘. “It is not the idea that we defend. People still come asking evil but we don’t sell marijuana here. Our idea is to educate people about the benefits of hemp,” says Mayank. The name of the cafe was also imagined on the same logic – the conversation around cannabis is often forbidden to young people; Mayank and Omair hope to undo the clichéd idea of ​​a “stoner” beyond the high.

Off-limits
Off Limits Cafe serves hemp-infused food and coffee

At Off Limits, three people called Hemp Educators talk to people about the many benefits of using hemp in their daily lives, how much they need to consume, and clarify any doubts they might have.

Off Limits’ menu incorporates hemp in two ways: they offer special hemp-roasted coffee beans and serve dishes infused with hemp hearts. Salads and sandwiches can also be served with hemp seed oil.

Does it get you high? “No you don’t,” Omair laughs, adding, “It’s not marijuana, but some people tend to feel it because of the placebo effect.” Off Limits was designed not just as a cafe but as an experience; they’ve partnered with four nearby hotels so guests can stay and bask in Kasol’s gorgeous views. While the cafe was launched in October 2020, the response started to increase this year. Today, the cafe’s patrons include young people, families, smoking couples, and wellness enthusiasts.

Off-limits
Off Limits also offers accommodation for travelers

At the end of community building, Omair and Mayank also organize events; “Wake, Bake and Meditate” saw 20 strangers come together at Off Limits to discuss cannabis and mental health. But the duo have bigger plans for the future. “We have acquired land in Uttarakhand, where we plan to establish our own research and development center, thereby reducing our dependence on suppliers; it will also allow us to work on better quality products, which can be competitive in the international market,” adds Mayank.

Information:

Is hemp the same as weed/marijuana?

Cannabis is a type of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family. Hemp and marijuana (more commonly known as weed) are varieties of the same plant, the main difference being the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

Hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC by dry weight, which is not enough to get you high.

Marijuana is cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, with the potential to get a high.

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