Creating a Cannabis Coffee Company

house of jane

Interview with Jill Amen co-founder of House of Jane. House of jane makes delicious cannabis-infused coffee. Jill’s story starts with her father that encouraged her to get into the cannabis business when she was in college and progresses into an entrepreneurial empire.

Key Takeaways:
[2:17] – Jill talks about how she got in the cannabis industry.
[5:56] – What is House of Jane
[8:06] – Jill discusses the compound synergies in the coffee and tea
[12:55] – How is her cannabis coffee made
[14:24] – How strong is the cannabis flavor in your coffees
[16:24] – Jill talks about the flavor profiles
[17:53] – Dosaging options
[20:12] – How do you make the coffee and extract uniform
[24:24] – Jill talks about licensing in different states
[27:21] – Jill discusses their packaging concepts
[30:15] – House of Jane contact details

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you an accredited investor looking to get access to the best cannabis investing opportunities? Join me at the next ArcView group event. The ArcView Group is the premier angel investor network focused exclusively on the cannabis industry. There is simply no other place where you can find this quality and diversity of cannabis industry investment opportunities months or even years before the general public. If that’s not enough, you will also be networking with the top investors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the cannabis space. I have personally made many of my best connections and lifelong friendships at ArcView events.

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Many cannabis edibles and nips companies struggle to find a unique benefit that will entice dispensaries to buy and feature their products. Jill Amen, cofounder of House of Jane, creates flavorful cannabis medicated coffees and teas to help patients that are looking for something different than the typical infused product offerings we see out there. Welcome to CannaInsider Jill.

Jill: Thank you I’m glad to be here.

Matthew: Jill to give us a sense of geography, can you tell us where you’re located today?

Jill: We’re actually in the Bay Area of California right now and plan on staying here as one of our facilities.

Matthew: Before we get into House of Jane can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you decided to get into the cannabis industry.

Jill: I would love to. It’s a funny story. I’ve actually been… I’ve had a long relationship with cannabis, I guess is the best way to put it. In fact when I was in college in the 70s I actually cultivated with the help of my dad who actually introduced me to cannabis. Which was one of the coolest things because he was one of the most conservative, very well know figure in the community; a veterinarian, a businessman. But he saw my entrepreneurial side from very early on and he actually ended up getting some little seedlings that had come from his incinerator in the back, his veterinary yard because he was the only person in town who was allowed to incinerate the cannabis plants as they came. So he thought it would be really cut to transplant a few of these little guys over to our own back yard, and then he led me back there, and of course it was the thrill of my life, and the fact that I’m still talking about it. So I had never been a gardener. I had never cultivated anything in my life. I never had any interest, and I bought every potential book I could on growing marijuana and I put myself through part of college that way as a matter of fact.

Matthew: Wow, that’s very industrious.

Jill: So then flash forward for a few decades. I went into corporate life of course and had a family and then my children grew to college age and beyond. And we took an Amsterdam trip a few years ago, actually maybe three or four years ago now, and we absolutely obviously like most people do fell in love with the coffeehouse concept. I became reacquainted with something that I had missed for a long time. And we came back, my son and I came back and said oh my god, all I would like to do is have a coffeehouse for cannabis, but I want it to be a coffee, not cannabis. So that’s how the kind of inspiration got started. So we started cultivating again to make sure we would have a steady supply, and started our R and D and actually just launched this January with our product line.

Matthew: Wow that’s a incredible origin story there. So your dad helps you, introduces you to the cannabis, the plant itself, and did he have some success in growing it then or was it just wanted to see what happened or was there a pretty good cultivation going on?

Jill: I’ll tell you I took it… it became my business. So he handed me an opportunity and I took it from there. Yeah. It was a terrific experience and a great memory.

Matthew: Wow you must have a very interesting dad. Maybe we should get him on the show sometime.

Jill: I think about him every day. I wish he were still in my life.

Matthew: Oh sorry to hear he’s gone. Tell us more about House of Jane. As I introduced you I talked about trying to stand out in a crowd because there’s obviously some very successful chocolate bar companies for example, but I would say that road has been travelled pretty thoroughly. You came up with a great idea here, and now you’re executing on it. Tell us more about your product line and what House of Jane does.

Jill: Well I approached our product line very similarly to how I see my new relationship with cannabis and that’s one of more mainstream use. There’s definitely a medicinal factor in that, but I also look at it from medicinal, therapeutic and lifestyle. There are a lot of people like me, all ages, that prefer an option to smoking or vaping or dabbing. And one of the most likely ways to consume cannabis is not in a highly caloric or sweet form and maybe in something that we do every day in our everyday lives. Consuming coffee and team is extremely traditional. It’s ritualistic. I mean it is the ritual and in addition to that there are some huge synergistic benefits between not only caffeine and cannabis but also between teas and their medicinal benefits on their own. As they’re infused with cannabis it creates an entirely new level of therapeutic benefit.

Matthew: Let’s get into that a little bit because I’m really interested in the synergies there between caffeine and also the other compounds in coffee and tea. And in particular, let’s just take coffee to start. So when you talk about the synergies is there a big difference strain by strain, indica versus sativa. And just a reminder for listeners out there indica is often joked that is in the couch. It makes you tired and it’s good thing before you go, you rest. You don’t want to get up and necessarily do anything. You want to chill out. Sativa tends to make you more creative and go out and do things. In general, these are high level distinctions. Let’s just take coffee for example and a sativa. Now if you blend coffee and a sativa is there a big difference between blending coffee than an indica?

Jill: Well I’m going to answer that in a few steps. First of all it depends, the effect that you would like to have right. So we offer an indica hybrid as well as a sativa hybrid. And they’re not as extreme as a full indica or a full sativa. They don’t need to be and I will tell you why and this is something that is factual in the industry is that when you actually go through the CO2 extraction process a lot of the terpenes that you… the terpene interaction changes with what you pair the cannabis with, if you will. I am not a scientist. That would be my job to explain that.

So the reaction is more or less what the terpenes are and the other flavonoids and everything else that you’re getting within the coffees and teas that actually enhance the effect of the cannabis. So where we do offer sativa hybrids and indica hybrids for different types, for example sativa is in our dark roast extra caffeinated. If somebody really wants to start the morning with an amazing jolt. And I’m not talking about just hot and heavy high I’m talking about just a jolt of energy and focus and concentration then that’s how we formulated those specific products. The other end of the spectrum and I speak about this personally is that we also do something that is more of a heavy indica but it’s still a hybrid, and it is a chamomile tea which is the absolute most remarkable way in the world to take that transition from your day from work and concentration and focus to a point of complete relaxation without couch lock. And yet all of a sudden your mood is completely on a different level than it was throughout your day. But then the second you hit your pillow you’re ready to sleep. And for somebody of my age, again speaking as part of I think part of our target market, is somebody who doesn’t necessarily sleep really well. I’m post menopausal. And I’ll tell you it’s been one of the greatest therapies for sleep that I could have without any kind of residual effect in the morning. You know, nothing like a prescription type or over the counter sleep aid.

Matthew: And it’s funny you mentioned that because I’ve seen the light bulb moment for people that have sleep difficulties and they have an indica dominant strain that they’ll consume for the first or second time in their life, never having consumed before and they wake up smiling having slept like a baby saying I didn’t know this was possible. It’s an amazing thing to see. It’s like they’d given up hope that they would be able to sleep throughout the night without waking up. So that’s great to hear. I did not realize, so chamomile obviously makes you very relaxed. You add the indica on top of it. What’s your personal experience with those? Is this something where in 45 minutes you’re like okay I’m ready to go to bed after that.

Jill: Actually I would describe it more as a wave. You can ride the wave for a long, long time in this relaxation moment. You’re just very comfortable. You’re very happy. It’s not that you don’t have energy because you do. A lot of times I will do my Photoshop or my creative work in the evenings at that point. It’s just completely you’re just totally relaxed, but it’s funny is that when you’re ready to go to bed you go to sleep. There isn’t that tossing and turning time. That’s why one of things, I mean, I’ve become such a believer in this method of medication because I’ve seen it work not only with me but so many of our patients that we rely on to give us their feedback and reaction to the products. So it’s something that I’m just seeing that it’s not just me saying this which is a terrific thing. It is very factual in what it does.

Matthew: Now just to review for people listening. The coffees are available as a loose coffee as well as something like a traditional k-cup machine where it’s like a little cartridge you can put in a coffee machine and close the lid and press a button and you get the coffee is that correct.

Jill: So how we’ve tried to position ourselves is more like the Starbucks of cannabis. And so we offer flavor options and single serve options in different formats. One being ground coffee. We have a ground coffee bag , very similar to a teabag that can be used in a traditional brewer. It can be used in a gold filter, a French press or as an actual teabag style of coffee where you can actually sieve it directly in your cup. So it depends. And then so we have our of course Keurig k-cup version which is for the Keurig style machines where you just pop it in single serve. And then we also have our instant coffee which is for those who literally want the least difficult on the go experience. You add it to hot water and you’re done. And then finally one more thing we are actually coming out next month with our bottled coffee beverages, our iced beverages which are the Chocolocino and the vanilla iced coffee.

Matthew: Now I’m curious about taste here. Some people like the taste of cannabis in their drinks and other people say I want it minimized to the greatest extent possible. Where do your drinks fall in the flavor spectrum there?

Jill: I’m glad you asked that question because what we’ve done with the R and D and formulations we’ve infused additional various taste maskers. So you don’t get… regardless of how you consume our beverages you don’t get a real cannabis after taste. The higher you go in dosage of course, you’re going to have a little bit of a cannabis taste sensation somewhere during the experience of that sip. But generally on the doses of 20s, 80s there’s very very little cannabis taste. It’s true some people like it, some people can actually pick up the flavor, the distinguishing difference between if you put a straight cup of coffee and a House of Jane but it’s subtle at best.

Matthew: Just a brief interruption to the show to remind you that CannaInsider is moving to a new show schedule. Look for a fresh new episode every Monday. Occasionally we will be creating a special edition show or a rerun of a popular show that will run on Wednesday. Again look for a fresh new episode every Monday. Now back to your program.

Obviously your coffees and teas are selling well. I’m curious as how you arrived at flavor because flavor is such an intimate thing and if you get it wrong, you’re not going to get a second chance. How do you arrive at a flavor profile or different flavors where it has the broadest appeal or maybe in some cases a narrow appeal but still going after your target customer with something you feel like they’ll like?

Jill: That was also a fun exercise. We did a lot of, I won’t call them sophisticated type focus groups, but we did a lot of more home based, friend based, invite your friend over and taste test type of thing. And we did it without cannabis in it. We literally wanted to get the flavors and the blends that were the most enjoyed by different groups of people at different times. And one of the things we did is we didn’t go with a mass produced type of coffee or tea. We actually work with a local independent roaster who does only high end gourmet. So regardless of the flavors that we ultimately chose the blends that we chose are very rich and very unique tasting, very different than if… there is a difference between (17.33 unclear) and we’ve done. If you try a Starbucks and you try ours I mean you will get a 98 percent that people like the taste of our coffee blends better. Likewise with our teas.

Matthew: And where are the dosages there? What are the milligram options in terms of dosage?

Jill: We have several, and our most popular are obviously the 20 because that’s like a double dose in terms of Colorado State dosing regulation. We start at 20. We recommend that people always begin with a half of a serving or 10mg. Their next step up is an 80, and the 80 is too much for me and I would have argued with many people until I saw that I was wrong that that is just a very moderate dosage for many people. To the point where we have a lot of patients who really prefer out 200mg version. So we try to address the spectrum of very new experiences for people who are just now getting accustomed to Jane’s Brew and the option of consuming cannabis in a beverage form or edible form at all, all the way up to people who truly have medicinal needs to the point that they need a lot of medication.

Matthew: Yeah that’s a great point. I mean it’s hard for people to understand. I’ve seen people with a 5mg that’s enough for them. That’s an adult dose for them. And then you think well how is it possible that you could amp it up to 200mg and that’s a normal dose for some people, and it just really depends on the person. If they are a fast or slow metabolizer, how their body responds, how long they’ve been consuming, are they consuming for pain, what are they consuming it for. So it may sound like a wild contrast but it’s actually quite normal. Now moving on to creating a uniform beverage. This is something that I’m very curious about because let’s say we were to take a cup of coffee and just put a tablespoon of olive oil in that cup of coffee, it would bead. It would not be uniform except now you’re doing it with cannabis extracts and you have to make it uniform somehow. What’s that process like?

Jill: Ha-ha that’s the old one, oil and water don’t mix and you are so right. So how do we overcome that huge challenge, but I want to back up for just a second because I hadn’t finished with the dosing, and I just wanted to let you know that, no that’s okay, the dosing is not just in THC. It’s also in CBD. So two of the five doses that we actually produce are 20mg high CBD which is a 14 to 1 and 80mg high CBD 14 to 1. And there the THC ratios are so minimal we only use an AC/DC strain. And there the THC is so minimal that many of our patients actually prefer that version. So I think it’s really really important when people look at what cannabis can offer. It’s so far beyond just a psychoactive effect that will create that medicinal therapy that they’re looking for.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. It’s good to have a CBD option.

Jill: Yeah the CBD is actually one of our growing segments, and I’m happy to see that. So now I’ll answer your other question as it relates to how do we mix oil and what kind of alchemy did we use. In fact that was one of our greatest challenges and in short we hired one of the best leading food scientists that we could find out of L.A. His company does extensive work with Starbuck, Nescafe, International Delight and so on. And so he and his food scientists came together and helped us create this formulation. And in essence what we’ve done is we’ve taken that CO2 extracted oil that’s already winterized, and on top of that then we… and decarboxylated, then we convert it into a powder form and that’s kind of our secret sauce if you will. From that powered form we’re able to create that substrate that we can infuse into any of our products.

Matthew: Yes wow, there’s a barrier to entry. Not everybody get into a business and figure out how to do that. So that’s great.

Jill: It is and it was an investment of time, energy and money. And you’re right. It’s something that not every person who love cannabis coffee could actually achieve. In a lot of our research, we have ongoing research that’s constantly evolving as we find new ways to do things, but what’s interesting is we are always testing different types of products on the market in terms of one ethicacy as far as dosing goes and also in terms of taste and effect. And so a lot of the other products that we’ve noticed that are beverage based so to speak have a much overriding cannabis taste, and the solution isn’t as clear as ours in terms of you don’t see cannabis specs in our products, if you will.

Matthew: Now how does licensing work? You’re in California but perhaps you want to expand to Colorado or Washington or Arizona. We’re dealing with a lot of hodge podge of different regulations in different states. It makes it very difficult to conduct businesses in other states. How do you get over that?

Jill: Well, you know, it’s interesting. It’s difficult enough just conducting business in California because what you just said about different states is true in every different municipality here in California in terms of how they interpret California state law and how they choose to implement it into their own legislative laws and everything that affect potential patients who reside in these counties etc, etc. So we’re navigating not only the states but we’re also navigating cities and counties. But in that, the word licensing really isn’t, I would say, the appropriate word for this. What we’re actually doing as we enter Nevada and Colorado, Nevada is actually happening this month, but they’re still coming up on their own legislation for their medical cannabis laws. But as we enter both adult use states and medicinal use states we are having to conform completely to the regulations that are set there. The product, the oil product is produced by their own Mips or processors in their own state based upon their own regulations. What we provide is the brand, the secret sauce. Again which is how we integrate or place that oil into a powered form, a tasteless powered form. And then provide the packaging to them that it will work with their own state laws. So it’s one step at a time with each of these states.

Matthew: Yeah it seems like it’s a very difficult thing. It almost has to be instead of a licensee, almost like a franchise model because there’s so many critical steps to ensure that they’re done correctly to maintain not only dosages and safety but the brand, your brand equity across state lines.

Jill: Absolutely, and that’s been the reason that we’ve taken our time in developing our SOPs as how we integrate them with each operating agreement that we place in a different state. Because we have stringent requirements in terms of quality and dose consistency and delivery.

Matthew: You mentioned packaging just a second ago. We’re only doing audio here so it’s difficult for people to see but they’re really really high quality packaging. It’s obvious you put a lot of thought into the design and so forth. What can you tell us about your packaging? How do you think about it?

Jill: Oh okay. I’m very emotionally connected to our brand and our packaging. When you actually start to create a brand you define your target market. You kind of visualize, you create this big storyboard if you will, and that’s exactly what we did. And it took a lot of my personality as Jane that was placed into the design and the logo and the packaging. And then it took a lot of high end creativity on the part of our ad agency who was able to put that all into place for us. But we’re appealing to our more mainstream patient base if you will. So we don’t want to look like the wake and bake if you will, product. Again we solve a problem for many different age groups, many different social situations and we want it to appeal as a discreet alternative. So we’re not trying to be the stoner on the block, if you will, the stoner brand.

Matthew: Sure. I think the piece of the pie that’s going to the stoner market is going to get smaller and smaller over time as you’re probably witnessing. Now marketing, operations, sales, licensing or partnerships, there is just a lot of moving parts as we talked about. I’m curious what it’s like to run House of Jane day to day. I mean what are some of the headaches? What are some of the things that makes you smile? I mean for people that are listening to get a sense of what you’re doing day to day, what’s it like?

Jill: I’m really glad you asked that question because the thing that is the most, I mean, I’m emotionally and passionately involved in this company. More so than any other business I’ve started. And a lot of that comes from the interaction with the other people in the industry and the patients. As far as how it is to run this business on a day to day, really we’re in an industry that’s uncertain in a state that’s uncertain and in a market that’s just (29.54 unclear) and evolving right now. So it’s like playing a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will.

Matthew: Good analogy. Jill in closing please tell the listeners where they can find out more House of Jane products online as well as in dispensaries.

Jill: I would first direct patients to our website. Patients and anyone else just curious and interested in learning more about the potential benefits for cannabis for them, to our website. We have a lot of good information on dosing, quite a bit of information on our mindset and on why we’re doing what we’re doing and what we’re committed to. But we also will direct patients from our website to any dispensaries in California from as far north as Shasta to as far south as San Diego. We work with about 120 dispensaries now, both delivery services and cannabis collective.

Matthew: Jill, thank you so much for being on CannaInsider today and educating us. We really appreciate it.

Jill: Well thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity.

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