By Carol Tannenhauser
In December, Da Capo, an espresso bar and restaurant on Columbus Avenue and 75th Street, began offering CBD-sweetened coffee and cocktails, with an interesting result, according to its co-owner.
“A lot of moms in the area, after dropping off their kids, have been coming in and asking for CBD in their coffee, just to relax,” Craig Marx observed. “CBD is becoming the Prozac of the Upper West Side.”
“[It’s] the penicillin of the 21st century,” Ron Silver, owner of the well-known, downtown Bubby’s restaurants, told amNewYork, last May, when he launched Azuca, the brand of CBD-infused sweeteners that Da Capo uses.
It’s all the rage right now, but what exactly is CBD, the acronym for Cannabidiol? Is it really a miracle drug, as Silver suggested, or just another well-marketed placebo, or worse? Is it legal and regulated? Does it get you high? Is it made from rope?
The CBD that is being marketed today comes from hemp, a “cousin” of marijuana that has long been used in the manufacture of rope. Both are strains of a species of plants called Cannabis. Cannabis is the umbrella; hemp and marijuana are individual spokes. They have many similarities, but, also, crucial differences. The main one is that hemp doesn’t get you high, experts say. It is the Tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — in marijuana that has psychotropic effects. Hemp, by nature and law (it’s legal in all 50 states, as long as it’s produced according to the 2018 Farm Bill) has very low concentrations of THC: 0.3% or less.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give medical advice,” Jonathan Teeter, general manager of Azuca, began a phone interview with WSR and Marx, last week. “I can only speak about my own experience.
“I use CBD every day,” he went on. “I played football for 14 years and have all kinds of things that hurt. What I’ve come to learn is that, when it’s working, CBD is more about what you don’t feel than what you do. Marijuana is about chasing a feeling, whereas you take CBD for the sole purpose of not feeling something: pain, anxiety, digestive issues. People ask, “How will I know when I feel it”? I say, “If you’re an anxious person and you feel a little more chill, it’s probably working. If you walk around with chronic pain from arthritis and you feel it a little less, there you go. It’s hard to quantify.”
WSR asked psychopharmacologist Daniel Mierlak, MD, PhD, for his thoughts about CBD.
“There’s an old joke among psychopharmacologists: you want to use a new drug in the first year it comes out, because in that year it treats everything,” Dr. Mierlak emailed. “CBD is certainly getting much attention these days. I’ve started to call it the “it” drug. From a psychiatrist’s perspective, several issues stand out:
1. There is very little actual clinical research currently available, especially on psychiatric indications. That will hopefully change https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/opinion/cbd-cannabis-health-anxiety.html
2. Commercially available products vary widely in concentration; and product labeling, if it even exists, is not always accurate.
3. As a result of #1, it is difficult to advise patients on drug interactions or adverse effects of CBD. I recently learned that although medical marijuana can be used for glaucoma, a report showed that CBD can increase ocular pressure in an animal model.”
In other words, it would be wise to consult your doctor about any side effects or interactions CBD might have with other drugs you are taking.
Teeter said that Silver, who is also a chef, solved some of the main problems of CBD delivery by developing an extract that is water soluble, good tasting, fast acting, and measurable. Azuca is marketing its CBD-infused sweeteners to restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops across the country.
Marx wanted to give the Upper West Side a taste, and “be an influencer in the area,” he said. “I was hearing about people doing this in California and I started researching it. I knew there were no other restaurants on the Upper West or Upper East Sides offering CBD.
“Don’t hold it against me,” he confided, “but I live on the Upper East Side. (There is a small Da Capo on Madison Avenue and 97th Street, in which Marx is a minor partner.) “I actually think there’s a lot more charm over here, with the brownstones, as opposed to the big high rises I’m used to. And the people are a little more unique. I’m happy we’re providing a service that I think is needed, in a more relaxed, European-style setting. In Europe, you can go someplace in the morning for your coffee, and come back for a quick snack, a cocktail, or dinner. It’s a place you don’t get tired of, because it changes itself through the day and night, with lighting and music.”
Marx doesn’t expect or want to replace the Starbucks one block away at 76th Street, which is closing at the end of the month, to the great consternation of its regular customers. “We’re more of a boutique than a chain,” he said, “We don’t have outlets everywhere.” He does hope that those seeking a new coffee spot might give Da Capo a try.
“‘Da capo’ is a musical term, meaning ‘from the beginning,’” he explained. A fresh start and a cup of Da Capo’s home-roasted, special blend of coffee might just calm them down.
“I drank it as the sweetener in an espresso, about a month ago, sitting right here in Da Capo,” said Upper West Sider Robert MacMillan. It was too late in the day for the moms to be there. “I didn’t feel anything particular other than a bit of a rush that I think was more caffeine than anything else. What I can say is, as a sweetener, it had an unusual taste I found to be quite nice in cold weather.”
A quarter-ounce shot of CBD costs $5.