Just like everything else these days, due to the Corona virus The Emerald Cup has a new look to it. But there is a blessing behind the transformation. For years, we have asked Cup Founder and Producer, Tim Blake, to move it forward from December to the Springtime, so that the entires would be better cured for judging. He always balked at the idea and I understand why: once you have a date locked in for an annual event, you don’t want to alter it. Hence, we are just starting to judge now.
As the ever-positive Tim Blake put it, “Every crisis has an opportunity. It’s a huge change to not be able to bring the tribe together in person, but now we can bring in worldwide viewers. It’s amazing we are pulling this off!”
For the first time in its 17 year history, The Emerald Cup, the premier cannabis competition in the world, will be virtual. It will begin on April 5th and be available for a full week of viewing via SCTV as the “Emerald Cup Takeover”, culminating in the Flower Awards on Sunday, April 11th. Every day there will be awards presented in the 39 categories, with a total of 160 winners. Along with the awards, there will be panels on subjects ranging from regenerative farming to terpenes to psychedelics. There will be fireside chats with cannabis celebrities and musical interludes with such favorites as Michael Franti. So prepare to roll up several fatties and get comfy – this will be a week of Emerald Cup delights.
Swami and I have proudly been on the Flower Judging team since the very first Emerald Cup back in 2003 We have watched it transform from an intimate underground gathering at AREA 101 in Laytonville, in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, to a worldwide virtual event with hundreds of entries from all of California’s legal market. This year the majority of entries in The Cup are in the cartridges, edibles and flower categories, with fewer in the topicals, salves and CBD areas than in previous years.
As Tim Blake put it, “This is a serious competition now. We have 1/10th of the original farmers in The Cup and most entries are from established name brands.”
In the Flowers category, this year we have a total of 265 entries plus two categories of pre-rolls: infused and non-infused. The flowers are divided into five separate classifications: Sungrown Licensed, Mixed Light Licensed, 3rd Party Certified Licensed, Personal Non-Licensed, and Indoor Licensed. The big news is the addition of Indoor for the first time in Cup history: it has traditionally been geared towards Sungrown cultivars only. But like Tim says, “Everything has to evolve.” Each category will have its own winners and on the final Judging day, we will pit the Sungrown entries against the Indoor and the Mixed Light, for the “Best of Show.”
The other major difference this year is that within each of those categories, entires are segregated by their dominant terpene profile, determined by our friends at SC Labs. Each entry has a color coded label to let us know if it is primarily Linalool, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Limonene, Terpinolene, Pinene or Ocimene. The top three of each category will advance to the Top 20 for the final placements of the winners.
It’s been a real learning experience to judge this way and discover the many smells associated with each terpene and find our personal favorites. Swami and I still prefer to describe an aroma by what it smells like in real life. For example, does the fragrance remind us of a moldy basement and disinfectant or jasmine and lemon meringue pie? Try this at home. Really consider the aroma and flavor and identify it with something from your memory bank of smells. You’ll gain a whole new appreciation of your cannabis.
Our panel of Flower Judges this year consists of 16 votes and 18 members, as there are two teams with one vote: Swami and me and Alec Dixon and Josh Wurzer from SC Labs. Several of the Judges come from Southern California this year as well, which is a welcome addition to the group. We have journalists, brand CEOs, dispensary buyers, cultivators, lab scientists and influencers on board, comprising the best panel ever!
As always, we have absolutely no idea where each entry originates – this is a completely blind judging. We receive a simple plastic container holding a one gram sample with a number on it – and it is not the same ID number as is given to the entrant. In fact, the Judges do not know the names of the winners until they are announced to the general public. The pre-rolls come to us in their branded packaging, as do some of the other entry categories such as edibles and topicals which are pre-packaged. In these cases we also consider the ecology of the packaging.
The hope is that next December we can hold a smaller harvest celebration—without a contest— at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, where The Cup has been held the past several years. According to Blake, that event will feature fresh flowers, seeds and music and a chance to be together again. We so miss seeing all our clan and the sharing of joints and hugs! Then in Spring of 2022, Tim Blake and The Cup plan to host a large Emerald Cup, this time to spread the Love in Southern California. Stay tuned for those special events.
For now, be sure to put April 5-11 on your calendar and check in on the The Emerald Cup site for details and schedules for this amazing free virtual event. As Tim Blake puts it, “I look forward to seeing the winners of the various competitions be acknowledged and honored for their hard work and artistry.” Amen.
We are so honored to be once again judging the very best cannabis flowers in the world. We’ll see you all online in April and until then, you know what we’ll be doing …
Born and raised in San Francisco, Nikki Lastreto is a grown-up flower child with a passion for cannabis and spirituality. After a decade as a journalist in The City, she moved to Asia for several years, primarily India, where she studied the art of creating sacred spaces. She returned to California, settling in Mendocino County, where she established a sanctuary on the farm that also is home to Swami Select brand cannabis flowers. Nikki is a founder and CEO of Swami Select, a respected cannabis journalist and a flower judge at the prestigious Emerald Cup since it began in 2003. As a strong voice for women, she shapes the industry, educating consumers, cultivators and politicians about the value of pure cannabis cultivated using organic methods.