Walk past almost any chemist these days, and you’ll see a windowful of CBD-based products, and demand for the stuff is now so great – particularly over the last stressful few months – that it has migrated into drinks as disparate as as soft drinks, tea and gin. And it’s legal.
CBD (short for cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, and is claimed to have significant health benefits, including pain relief and the reduction of stress and anxiety. The labelling often features words such as “calm”, “harmony” and “balance”, although some brand names, such as Trip and Colorado High, suggest something altogether more stimulating.
So do CBD drinks contain enough to have a therapeutic effect? Possibly, if you drink more than one of them, or supplement them with a shot, drops or a cream. The Food Standards Agency recommends a maximum 70mg a day, but regular users I’ve spoken to consumed more like 100-200mg, which is quite impressive when many drinks contain as little as 10mg a serving. Like alcohol and caffeine, the effect can differ from one person to the next, and the only product that had a marked effect on me was Kannaswiss’s C3 shot (£35 for a pack of seven), which was packed with other ingredients and really did leave me feeling unusually sharp and focused.
Taste is another issue. The basic taste of hemp is quite earthy and vegetal, which isn’t the biggest draw, so many new brands, such as Trip, Intune and Gibson’s Goodology, are understandably focusing on flavour. As you can see from today’s panel (below), these products don’t come cheap, even though CBD-based drinks are not currently taxed like alcoholic ones. And if one of the reasons you’re feeling stressed is financial, spending £10 a day on CBD drinks and shots isn’t going to work.
That said, the demand is certainly out there. When Silent Pool put its Colorado High Gin online six weeks ago, it sold 800 bottles in two days, despite the £50 price tag, while Hatter’s became Holland & Barrett’s fastest-selling tea earlier this year, shifting more than 25,000 boxes in the first month. Supermarkets have yet to come on board, but CBD drinks are already on sale in such respectable emporia as Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
The great commercial opportunity, of course, is that CBD drinks can be piggybacked on to the equally buoyant alcohol-free market. An adult soft drink that makes you feel good without giving you a hangover, and that’s the holy grail.
Five CBD-based drinks to try
Hatter’s CBD-infused chamomile tea £19.99 for 20 bags(with a second bag currently on offer for 1p), Holland & Barrett. Definitely more interesting than a standard chamomile tea (50% of this is hemp) with a pleasantly soporific effect. The lemongrass and rosehip tea is also nice.
Trip Lemon Basil £2.39 a 250ml can Planet Organic, £2.99 nabino.com, £19.99 for six from drink-trip.com. My favourite of the Trip range, a soft, sparkling drink that contains 15mg CBD per can, as well as L-theanine, ginseng, lemon balm and rooibos. Like a pleasantly herby lemonade.
Gibson’s Goodology Jasmine Tea and Rhubarb £4.95 a 250ml can, Hic! (or £14.85 for 3). Developed by one of London’s leading mixologists, Hide’s Oskar Kinberg, this tea-based drink has the highest level of CBD per serve (25mg a can), and also the best, most natural fruit flavours of any of the drinks I tried. Really delicious.
Silent Pool Distillers Colorado High CBD Gin £50 for 50cl silentpooldistillers.com (or £59 in a bundle with tonic) , 40%. There’s enough CBD in this gin (10mg per 25ml serve) to make it cloudy and give it a strong, earthy, almost spicy flavour. Combined with the recommended Green Stem CBD-infused citrus tonic, a large G&T would be about 26/7mg. Judging by the demand, it clearly appeals, but it’s super-pricey for a 50cl bottle, and I have to say I prefer the basic Silent Pool gin.
Doña Sofia Gin & Tonic £12 for 6 250ml cans dona-sofia.com, 5%. More like a cocktail than G&T, but with an attractive, marmaladey, bitter orange flavour offsetting the relativelyhigh sugar content (15.75g a can). One of the only products to admit the CBD content might vary by +/-15% (they say it’s 10mg), which could make it as low as 8.5mg or as high as 11.5mg. Good value at this launch price.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com