What does it take to run a hemp coffee in India?

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Hemp production remains limited in India, and prices are therefore quite high. “People are unlikely to pay 1,500 rupees for 200-250g of hemp,” says Shitole. “But they can just go to a cafe and pay around 250 rupees for hemp-infused food. That way they can realize that it won’t get them high. She calls her establishment an “informative cafe” that seeks to educate customers about the other side of cannabis. The walls and tables carry posters with tidbits about the nutritional value of hemp. When customers first walk in, Shitole offers them a taste of plain hemp seeds. “I let them taste it and then they tell me they completely misunderstood the product, and that’s not what they thought at all.”

The Challenges of Running a Hemp Cafe in India

In November 2021, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) authorized the sale of hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and hemp flour as food and food ingredient.

Yet setting up a hemp-based restaurant is far from easy. Shitole opened his cafe in June, but not everyone buys into the idea. “It’s not like my cafe was packed because it just opened. People are still scared and apprehensive to come here,” she says. Dealing with local authorities and people’s perceptions has caused delays in paperwork, and she doesn’t have many customers from the neighborhood her cafe is in. “But there are people who come from other parts of town because they know about hemp and are curious about coffee.”

Then there’s the misconception that hemp can get you high. Shitole and Panchal must constantly temper and manage customer expectations. “We get about 6-7 calls and messages a day, from customers worried that food will get them high or people telling us they want to get high,” says Panchal. Raising awareness and education are part of their daily work. “A lot of people come with the hope that they will get bhang and it will get them high,” Shitole says. “People ask us to infuse food with as much hemp as possible. We constantly have to resolve customer questions and I spend around 12 hours in the cafe making sure no one comes in to smoke or do anything illegal. .

But there are also undercurrents of change. Panchal recently had a client order food from The Hemp Factory for a family reunion. “His family wasn’t initially cannabis friendly. But they managed to create some awareness among them. That’s what we need. Now they look at hemp in a very different way,” says The delivery platforms have been more than welcoming and are excited about the new concept. “Usually you would approach them to be on their platform, but they were the ones who contacted us,” says Panchal.

For now, most people who try the food are those interested in hemp. But the movement is far from over. Panchal plans to expand to other parts of Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. “If we don’t learn more about hemp today, 15 to 20 years later, we could face many problems such as deforestation and land degradation,” Shitole says. “I believe hemp can be a solution to a variety of problems. It contains dietary fiber and ethanol, it can act as a soil fertilizer and become a cash crop. It can be used as an alternative source of plywood for furniture, thus reducing the felling of trees.This can help repair entire ecosystems.

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