Pune welcomes its first café serving hemp (bhaang)-based food
Pune: Pune has now welcomed its first cafe serving hemp (bhaang)-based food. Among the delectable treats on offer in its menu are bhaang sandwich, hemp smoothies and hemp biscuits.
Moreover, it is not only completely legal but also very healthy, according to its 30-year-old co-founder Amruta Shitole. Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, is known to be a powerhouse of vitamins and healthy fats, she says.
"I learnt about hemp during my trip to Uttarakhand four years back. Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to legalize hemp for industrial use. During the trip, I came to know about the regular day-to-day use of hemp seeds in chutneys and ayurvedic medicines. I decided to understand more about hemp and started learning about its various uses and availability," recalls Amruta, who runs the café with her brother Vishal in Sadashiv Peth.
Unlike cannabis, hemp contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in quantities less than 0.3 per cent. This prompted the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue a notification on November 15, 2021, stating, "The hemp seed, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour shall be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale subject to conforming standards."
Grabbing this opportunity, Amruta decided to bring all her knowledge about hemp seeds, and flour to her café, which threw its doors open on May 2022. 'We use seeds of cannabis and not leaves. Most of us have misconceptions about hemp. Hemp is magical but why are common people not eating hemp-based foods? One is the cost involved, and the other is its bad reputation. Our café's venture is to break these myths and misconceptions,' says Amruta.
Amruta and her chef serve freshly prepared snacks each day. 'Using hemp seeds and flour is very easy. A little bit of experimentation and some feedback from the people helped me devise recipes,' says Amruta, who makes 1-2kg of fresh hemp chutney every day.
Interestingly, for the unversed, the café also hosts a hemp museum to showcase 'all factual information about cannabis'.
While Maharashtra has not legalized hemp cultivation, cultivators say that compared to other cash crops, hemp consumes less water and also increases soil fertility, which makes it a promising venture.