“Sourcing the best ingredients for these products was a no-brainer”
Though the multi-state cannabis operator Jushi just entered the Mass market this fall, we are predicting a significant response to the Tasteology brand they acquired and revamped. The reason is quite simple: their goods are a cut above, impressive from the sourcing to the packaging.
So far, we have sampled their milk chocolate and strawberry blonde bars, as well as Tasteology Chews in three styles: Blood Orange Boost, Blueberry Calm, and Passion Raspberry Balance. The former feature cocoa beans from the gourmet French chocolatier Valrhona; the latter are made with real fruit purées by Ponthier, another iconic French brand; all are outstanding, top notch bites with fairy dust on top, with the strawberry blonde and raspberry numbers especially standing out as some of the tastiest infused treats around.
We’re not sure how they do it; the chews, for one, seem like they could have been plucked straight from a bush. To learn more about their processes and the flavors, we reached out to Jushi’s Director of Manufacturing Matthew Petersen, who you might know from his run as a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts.
Obviously we have to start with you—after you appeared on Top Chef: Just Desserts, is this the direction you saw your career headed in?
It is not, in fact. I had my sights set on a career that encompassed the upper echelon of the dining world. I was working at one of three 4-star restaurants in Washington, DC and I wanted more. I was focused on a James Beard Award—the Oscars of cooking—and I was focused heavily on my craft.
At that time, my first child was turning one and my life was starting to morph unexpectedly; professionally and personally. The 12 to 15 hour days of working in a kitchen weren’t working anymore, and I wasn’t going to let that lifestyle ruin the family I loved so much. We decided to relocate back to the Northeast where I teamed up with a former employer to help them build their bread and pastry program across multiple outlets. This was a welcome change to my work/life balance. It allowed me to refocus on the things that were truly important: my wife and kids.
Then along comes cannabis in Massachusetts. I had been preparing myself in the years leading up to adult use legalization by making infusions and extracts at home. So, when the time came for the well to open up, I was applying to every open position and I knew that if I got my foot in the door somewhere that I could make it happen.
What’s your background with cannabis, and more specifically, your background of cooking with cannabis?
As I mentioned before, I had been preparing myself for adult-use legalization, and had the opportunity to witness a large-scale indoor grow that taught me a lot about cultivation and caring for the plant. This is where my love for cannabis rekindled from my teen years. I’ve been cultivating ever since, but learning how to make extracts and the infusion process is where it really took off for me. Taking the flower that I cultivated, my wife and I experimented with different full-spectrum oil infusions, RSO, and tinctures of varying degrees. I love the art of distillation, but we prefer things that carry the terpenoids and flavonoids from a full-flower extraction. I’ve also done a few small dinners for friends where we would infuse multiple courses; that can be pretty fun, but get out of hand quickly, in a good way.
Any favorite cannabis treats that you’ve loved making over the years?
Whatever my family and friends want. Lately I’ve been making lollipops for some friends who are new to cannabis who wanted something nostalgic and familiar. I really enjoy making anything using high-quality ingredients, because I know that I’m giving someone the best possible infused product that I can.
Any little tricks of the trade for our readers who like to dabble at home?
Know your math! Infusing is part science, part cooking. Understanding the infusion part ensures that whoever eats that product is going to get what they expect. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—it’s all part of the process.
How did you get into your current situation with Jushi and creating those products?
I was a part of Nature’s Remedy when it was acquired by Jushi. Some saw the value in what I was making, and pushed to get me the opportunity to take it even further across the nation. I’ve always pictured myself with an MSO, creating unique edibles for them in each market. They don’t all have to be the same, but there can be some overlap. I think appealing to your customers is incredibly important.
Can you just run us quickly through the Tasteology product line and tell us what you’re aiming for with these goodies in particular?
For sure. The Tasteology product line is both a rebrand and an extension of the original Tasteology products—a total revamp of the fruit chews and launched a brand new line of top tier chocolate. We committed to finding the highest quality ingredients to craft this product line, which for us, looked like no colorings, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
Sourcing the best ingredients for these products was a no-brainer, given the amount of edibles we are seeing in the market today that—simply put—are not actually tasty. With Tasteology Chocolates, we were determined to bring consumers an all-natural product that’s also genuinely delicious. The chocolates contain 90mg of THC per bar (5mg per piece) and are made with responsibly sourced cocoa beans from gourmet French chocolatier Valrhona. The chews are a rebrand of the original Tasteology edibles line, but with a totally new recipe and aesthetic. Tasteology Fruit Chews are made with real fruit purées by Ponthier, and pectin rather than gelatin, so they’re vegan and gluten free. We focused on infusing these with unique terpene blends and minor cannabinoids like CBD and CBN for specific experiences.
I’m really looking forward to rolling out the Tasteology line to additional markets in 2023 so that more people get to experience these. Ultimately for me, the goal is to start with food that tastes great, and then infuse it with the best possible material. That’s it. If I wouldn’t serve it to my family, I wouldn’t serve it to a customer.
OK, now let’s talk about the chocolate. It’s damn good. How did you link up with Valrhona? And can you tell us a little more about how that relationship works.
I’ve been a customer and supporter of Valrhona since the early days of my career and have used their chocolate exclusively since 2005. They have a great support system and really care about their customers, big and small. Hospitality is in my blood so I take note of the companies that care about their people and guests.
Your company is producing these in multiple markets. How do you ensure quality and consistency from state to state?
We are planning to launch these products in Virginia, Ohio, and Nevada in Q1 of 2023. The approach would be focused on the process and making sure that it is replicable at scale. Follow-up and follow-through help to ensure that the consistency is there along with key metrics that production teams will strive for as benchmarks to ensure a high quality finished product. I look forward to helping our teams in other markets get up to speed and make amazing products.
Finally, what other edibles will we see coming out of your shop in the near future? How about beyond that—any really adventurous stuff down the line that you can’t seem to get to your satisfaction just yet?
I’m really glad you asked that. I see small-format chocolate items down the line, along with some full-spectrum products made from rosin—in all formats. I’d love to do some niche products too: seasoning blends, beverages, birthday cakes…I could keep going, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Citizen Strain/Grain is an amalgamation of a bunch of us who, in addition to the hard and oftentimes depressing journalism we report for the Dig, also enjoy sampling and writing about the various beers, spirits, and cannabis products that vendors from near and far send our way. If you want us to check out your product, please contact us at email@example.com.