Editor’s note: Eaze is proud to introduce to the menu Caliva, the San Jose seed-to-sale operation that’s also our new dispensary partner in the area. During a tour on a recent weekday, we discovered the secret behind the Caliva products we love.
It’s almost 2 p.m. at Caliva, and the cultivation staff is getting the plants ready for bed. Lights-out comes early in the indoor grow behind this San Jose seed-to-sale superstore—easily one of the most integrated, state-of-the-art vertical businesses in cannabis—and it’s been a busy day.
Trimmers in smocks and hair nets frantically clip mature buds from flowering stalks in one of the facility’s 14 grow rooms, racing timers that will darken them at the optimal moment for energy efficiency.Out in Caliva’s sprawling labyrinth of long and lofty corridors, bathed in blue light and scattered with special mats for cleaning the soles of our shoes, workers bustle about in masks and medical scrubs. One team has dismounted a dozen white oscillating fans from an adjacent grow room and popped off their protective cages to hose down every last blade.
“Gotta be done every six months!” one worker shouts to a gawking visitor.If there’s a clinical vibe behind the scenes at Caliva, it’s for a reason: Many of its leaders are from the world of medicine and pharmaceuticals, where precision, cleanliness and purity are SOP. But hang around long enough and it’s clear this is no soulless, industrial marijuana factory.
As you wander Caliva’s lofty hallways, traverse its cavernous hangars, peer into secret hideaway labs and visit its elegant dispensary storefront, there’s clearly something extra going on.A trimmer in dark shades flashes a grin and a hang-loose sign. A team of packagers hails our group with hearty hellos and laughs at our dumb jokes. Greeters and budtenders are delighted that you’ve arrived, attentive and eager to help.
That’s when it hits you. Everyone is smiling.
It’s like part of the uniform around here.
You’d think you’d stumbled on kids running a candy store, not grown-ups grinding out another weekday at work. (And no, it’s not because everyone’s high. Very funny—but they’re not. This is a different kind of buzz.)
Caliva’s fully integrated vertical structure, robust resources and diverse talent roster make it a veritable playground for a new generation of cannabis creatives. Their instincts, knowledge, experimental streak and passion for the cannabis plant are every bit as essential to the quality and innovation of Caliva products as its small fleet of machinery and hulking extraction mega-machine (known around here as Big Blue).Cultivators, trimmers, extractors, flavor scientists, analysts, marketers, budtenders and delivery drivers mingle in the halls and break-rooms, while happy customers stream in and out just a room (or three) away. And why shouldn’t they all be smiling?
Caliva is out here playing botanical jazz, its people jamming together on the best instruments in the world.“Everything is a new discovery,” says Nelson Miguel Ricardo Martinez, Caliva’s product-development wizard, a naturally curious and energetic fellow whose co-workers call him The Flavor Guru behind his back.
His partner in creative crime is director of research Maya Kochman, whose background is olfactory sensory and analytical chemistry, and came to Caliva by way of plant-based meat and dairy product maker Impossible Foods.
Today they are tinkering with oils for G Pen’s Gio, the absolute latest in vaporizer battery tech. And they sure look like they’re having a good time.
Caliva’s strain-specific vape oils are as much art as science.
In a small side room, stacked with beakers and other Goldbergian chemistry-set contraptions, Kochman and Martinez are working on their impressions.Layer by layer, they precisely imitate individual strain profiles in oils—they’ve already cracked Jack Herer, Cali OG, Day Dream—by introducing cannabis- and botanical-derived terpenes and other natural compounds into pure THC distillate oil.
Many are from Big Blue and other on-site extraction machines, though their expert noses have led them to use botanical terpenes from other sources, like pine and orange peel. (The only way to truly extract every last cannabinoid and delicate terpene from the plant is as “live resin”—the stuff of potent concentrates, for the most part—and the plant doesn’t yield enough of that to scale.)A separation machine called the DCMS gives them the ability to smell each individual compound in complex materials, one at a time. Any flavor they want to make—whether that’s Alien OG or a cheeseburger—they just break down and build back up from scratch.
“To replicate a strain, we have the lab here and can analyze the flower to see the terpenes that it has,” says Martinez. “We run the strain and see the terpenes, using that as our base. Let’s say you want to make Bubba Kush—you see how it looks, add it up, and we get pretty, pretty, pretty close to it.”
Kochman notes that Caliva’s process gives them the ability to build a terpene catalog, more than 50 and counting now. And with each new entry comes more accuracy and artistic freedom.
“If you wanted just a fun product—pina colada, coffee flavor—those are the easy ones,” she says. “Just tell me, I can do it.”
Love for cannabis that’s roots-deep.
It doesn’t take long to realize that that’s what’s going around at Caliva. It’s just the sort of giddiness you’d expect with a crew of passionate people constantly exploring, discovering, pioneering and helping people in an exceptional new industry that’s just getting under way.
That, and the thing that brought them all here in the fist place.
“Deep love,” says Ryan Brantley, Director of Agricultural Science. The soulful self-proclaimed farmer says he started growing cannabis 18 years ago, “fell in love with the plant, and subsequently discovered you can study agriculture as a profession.”
Brantley got a Master’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in fruit and crop sciences, disciplines that would come in handy for his cannabis side-hustle. But in the end, it seemed as though cannabis found Brantley, not the other way around.
“I got hired by one of my former professors, who had some post-harvest challenges,” Brantley says, laughing. “My master’s thesis was on post-harvest strawberries. And my professor found out that I knew quite a bit about cannabis. More than he ever dreamt. I kept that kinda private.”
Now Brantley tends one of the best-equipped indoor grows in California.
Admit it, you’d be smiling, too.
[Product(s) named in this story are registered under California licenses CDPH-T00000115, CDPH-T00000114, A11-17-0000006-TEMP and M11-17-0000012-TEMP]