Pune has now welcomed its first café serving hemp-based food. Among the delicious dishes on the menu are the bang sandwich, hemp smoothies and hemp biscuits.
And it’s not only perfectly legal, but it’s also healthy, according to its co-founder, 30-year-old Amruta Shetul. She says that hemp, or hemp sativa, is known to be a powerhouse of vitamins and healthy fats.
“I learned about cannabis during my trip to Uttarakhand four years ago. Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to legalize the use of industrial hemp. During the trip, I learned about the regular daily use of hemp seeds in sauces and Ayurvedic medicines. Amruta, who runs the café with her brother Vishal in Sadashiv Beth, decided I decided to understand more about cannabis and began learning about its various uses and availability.
Unlike hemp, hemp contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in amounts of less than 0.3 percent. This prompted the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue a notice on November 15, 2021, stating that “Hemp seed, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour must be sold as food or used as an ingredient in food for sale in accordance with the corresponding standards.”
Amruta seized the opportunity, and decided to pass on all her information on cannabis seeds and flour to this café, which opened in May 2022. “We use cannabis seeds, not tree leaves. Most of us have misconceptions about cannabis. Hemp is magical, but why don’t the general public eat hemp foods? The first is the cost involved, and the other is the bad reputation. “Our café project is to break these myths and misconceptions,” says Amruta.
Not to be shy about experimenting, Amruta and her chef make fresh snacks every day. “Using hemp seeds and flour is very easy. A little experimentation and some feedback from people helped me come up with the recipes,” says Amruta, who makes 1-2 kg of fresh hemp sauce every day.
The café also hosts a cannabis museum to display “all factual information about cannabis”.
While Maharashtra has not legalized hemp cultivation, farmers say that compared to other cash crops, hemp consumes less water and also increases soil fertility, making it a promising project.