On the morning of January 1 2018, California’s residents woke up to a new reality; marijuana products were no longer reserved just for people who have a medical marijuana card, but available for anyone over the age of 21, at an array of locales, out there for the wide population to discover. One way to celebrate? A nice cup of tea, infused with various levels of CBD and THC, courtesy of Kikoko. The women behind the cannabis-infused organic herbal tea company—travel writer Amanda Jones and self-declared ‘serial entrepreneur’ Jennifer Chapin—couldn’t be happier, as it means that more people can be exposed to their product’s medicinal, healing qualities.
Kikoko teas lean nicely on a game of words—Tranquili-tea (chamomile & lemon myrtle) assists with sleep and relaxation, Positivi-tea (lemongrass mint green) brings joy and a great mood, Sympa-tea (ginger orange) aids anxiety and pain and Sensuali-tea (hibiscus cardamom rose) will “fire the desire.” The company’s packaging is colorful and full of humor (“Yes, it feels like you just had an awesome massage”; “Yes, it’s time to get your groove on”), its website is educational and its general tone is experiential and friendly.
While the product itself is produced in Emeryville, and Jones lives on the Peninsula, Chapin lives in Sausalito. Furthermore, one of Kikoko’s most curious promotions, ‘high’ tea parties, started in the area and are still going strong. The concept? Dressed-up, hat-clad ladies sipping infused teas, giggling and sharing stories. This is Kikoko’s essence—not necessarily getting epically high, but having a ‘migh-tea’ good time.
“When we first founded this company, we were told, and I quote, that we would be ‘laughed out of the dispensaries’ with our low doses,” Jones says. “This is proving not to be the case. In fact, quite the opposite—we placed a bet that women such as ourselves, many of whom are reliant upon pharmaceuticals with bad side effects, were looking for more natural alternatives but didn’t want to get so high they had a bad experience.”
“Our peers don’t like to smoke,” Chapin adds. “We’re giving people a viable alternative to smoking, in a way that’s discreet, a lovely delivery vehicle if you will. How about a nice cup of tea instead of wine?”
The two women met through friends several years ago, and discovered a mutual knack for activism and women’s issues; previous to Kikoko, they founded Cynthia’s Sisters, a nonprofit helping Congolese women attend law school. “We discovered that we’re good at working together,” Chapin says with a laugh, “and that we’re both very passionate about helping marginalized communities.”
The new endeavor was born, partially, out of compassion for a mutual friend. “Three years ago, we had a friend with cancer,” Jones recalls. “It was terminal and she was using cannabis to help her with her pain, nausea and appetite. She didn’t like smoking and she remarked that there were no edibles targeted for women. She mentioned that, ‘Someone ought to create a line of cannabis-infused products that women can trust.’”
Jones and Chapin did a career turn, and found themselves in line with the plant. “We had no intention of getting into the weed business,” Jones says. “Still to this day I shake my head and laugh. But we are now oh-so-glad we did join this movement.”
Kikoko, as you may have already sensed, emphasizes health benefits rather than the good old high. It is, the founders say, a matter of education and perception, which is slowly shifting towards the positive.
“It seems to me that some stuff has been underground and shut, and now people are seeing it everywhere—the more people are reading about it in the mainstream media, the more they realize it is a viable product and it goes towards legitimizing the industry, towards understanding that it’s a plant that’s very useful in aiding medicinal conditions,” Chapin says. “I grew up in the culture of Nancy Reagan, of Just Say No. “I think that it’s similar to friends who have same-sex partners and come out to their families, who then become accepting. Similarly, when families see their loved ones getting help from medicinal marijuana, they start to understand. We truly think it’s a human rights violation that not all people have access to it.”
Jones highlights the historical significance of marijuana. “We are big believers in cannabis as medicine, which is not a new trend,” she says. “In fact, the plant being used in recorded medical history dates back to 2900 B.C.E. in China. When grown wild, cannabis does not have high amounts of psychoactive cannabinoid—that has been bred into it by humans. There is a recent trend labeled “microdosing,” but in fact it is really just taking the amount of THC down closer to the amounts found naturally before the plant was selectively bred for high THC. Our products are low dose, and we plan to go even lower.”
According to Jones, the science behind Kikoko is precise; the human body has an endocannabinoid system that helps the body achieve homeostasis by regulating things like appetite, mood, libido, and awake and sleep states. Enter cannabis: “This system exists in the body in the form of CB1 and CB2 receptors, and those receptors receive cannabinoids perfectly as they mimic neurotransmitters we ourselves produce,” Jones says. “We have blended cannabinoids in ratios that scientific evidence suggests helps with each of these concerns. We are very serious about our ratios and blending products that don’t merely get you high, but that can offer healthier alternatives to pharmaceuticals.”
Recently, there has been local buzz around ‘green banking’; according to a December 2017 L.A. Times article, talks have been taking place between the state, banks and federal regulators on a plan to allow banks to serve a marijuana market properly. Among the possible solutions is to designate one bank as a central hub that would hold accounts from other banks doing business with marijuana firms. Until that happens, Chapin and Jones are at least rejoicing in the growing knowledge about marijuana’s multifaceted and medicinal premises.
“We take education very seriously,” Chapin says. “Our parties are educational; we’re introducing cannabis in a way that’s both fun and educational, as a big part of the brand is giving people permission to try something new.”
On Kikoko’s website, at-home tea kits and instructions can be found for those who want to throw their own elevated bash, and materials are plentiful. The teas themselves can be delivered, or found at dispensaries. In Marin, options are not yet abundant, but Chapin reports active interest from her neighbors and friends in the area, and believes that more selling points are just a matter of time. The women are still building the brand, while being attentive to the market.
“We constantly ask our customers, ‘How else would you like to experience marijuana?’” Chapin says. “This is such an exciting time and opportunity for us.”