The back-to-back rosin world champs at Kalya Extracts continued to crush through the pandemic. They shared their adventures with us for the second part of our 710 Talking with the Champs series.
In the uppermost echelons of heady hash culture, solventless aficionados hold court over tables full of the world’s best hash. The team at Kalya often produces the first jar those heads reach for on the table.
For co-founder Marc Hammond, this certainly made the last 15 months a lot more bearable.
“Honestly, it’s been exhilarating,” Hammond told L.A. Weekly. “It’s been a lot of work, but a lot of fun at the same time. After we won the cup, people were coming up to us and talking about how winning the Emerald Cup is the dream – and it is to an extent. But I think it also opens up the door for a lot of these opportunities to actually realize a lot of the goals that we’ve been chasing after.”
Hammond said this includes starting to work with a laboratory a bit more and doing a bunch of collaborations, including their first-ever disposable with Alien Labs they’ve been dialing in for a minute.
One element of the disposable is it adds a third-party delivery system to the mix. Kalya’s product traditionally comes chilled in glass packaging if the dispensary has a clue. We asked Hammond if it was a struggle to have faith in the tech for the first time knowing the work that was coming out of Kalya’s washroom and presses was world-class without new accessories.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge,” Hammond replied.
Kalya is traditionally something you need to take a couple of minimal steps to not mess up. Close it and leave it in the fridge or freeze it for long-term storage. We asked Hammond what the shelf stability was like compared to Kalya’s standard extracts? Hammond said if you’re not in the desert you’re good, but like most technology, over 100-degree temps can compromise it.
But just getting dispensaries to preserve their product properly at first seemed trickier at times than any new vape pen collab. “I think education is one of the biggest challenges that any concentrate producer faces. There’s not a lot of knowledge out there about stuff. So being able to educate different people around proper storage and preserve the integrity on it was a little bit of a challenge. But we’ve been able to overcome it and teaming up with people like Lemonnade and Connected, it kind of helps us be able to have a platform to educate people.”
Hammond went on to cover what has been the most surprising thing during Kalya’s back-to-back run at the Emerald Cup.
“I think it’s just about all the outreach and support from people in the community,” Hammond said. “Whether it’s operators of different brands or it’s just consumers coming up to us and sharing their stories with our product. It’s been awesome to see how the word spread in such a short time, and it makes us hungry to keep on pushing the limit and improving.”
As with Humboldt Terp Council, we asked Hammond how he thought the first light deprivation harvests of the summer are looking for Kalya to put in work.
“Oh man, the fields are full this year. I am so excited,” Hammond replied. “There are so many new flavors. I think a lot of growers are in tune with the market and are going to start pushing towards fresh frozen and fresh frozen genetics. So this year I am stoked to say that I’m seeing a bunch of awesome Papaya and gassy crosses.”
Hammond went on to describe one of the most notable phenotypes he’s seen yet. An Animal Cookies x Chem 91 cross he called absolutely nasty. He’s also seen a lot of Zkittlez – which is particularly close to his heart – and some great Rainbow Belts.
“It’s gonna be a great summer and even a better fall I think,” Hammond said.
As for actually getting his hands on the material, are farms just lining up to work with the champs these days?
“I mean, we were really lucky to develop relationships with farmers. When we go out to these guys, we tell them we’re not corporate suits, we’re not looking for a sellout, we’re looking for a long-term relationship with them. I think they gravitate towards that,” Hammond said, “So we’re able to establish ourselves with a few long-term farms and hopefully ride off those genetics.”
A big part of the battle solventless companies face is that even the nicest looking pot may not necessarily produce a lot of hash. This means that Kalya has to sift through waves of material if they don’t want to end up with another Papaya or GMO. The pair currently dominate the solventless space due to the commercial viability of the amount of hash they actually produce.
With a company like Kalya, how much time can they spend hunting for the next gem as opposed to pumping out as much of their in-demand hash as possible? Hammond said it’s been a delicate balance but having an awesome partner in Joe Ryan and a few awesome cultivation partners makes everything feasible.
“Including mainly Dancing Dog up there in Mendocino, we are able to do some pheno hunts with them on genetics that we would find over the years,” Hammond said. “Stuff that they’ve had as well, and to try to bring those new flavors to the market.”
As for any details on genetics Kalya has been sitting on, waiting for the right opportunity to bring them to market?
“We have this one called Secret Sauce coming out, and I’ve been trying to keep the lineage a little tight so it doesn’t get recreated too fast, but I can tell you that it is along the lines of Zkittlez and gas, and I’m trying to create a depth between fruit and fuel,” Hammond said. “So that’s coming out in the works. We just did our first female runs on a microscale, and we’re going to have our batches of it being pulled down at Dancing Dog late July.”
As we continued our conversation on the state of the marketplace around late spring and early summer harvests, the talk moved to how much impact fire season had on people trying to go as big as possible early in the year.
“An incredible amount. I link the fire season to how the prices spiked up last year across both markets,” Hammond said, referencing both the legal market and the not. “It created an almost gold rush scenario where so many people have run into gaps that there is a ton of availability this year.”
Hammond went on to note the dry spring has also raised concerns about where things may be heading in the fall.
“One thing that we’re keeping in mind too when acquiring fresh frozen, we understand how dry the year is this year and that we’re a little intimidated by it and so we’re trying to get as much fresh frozen as possible right now,” Hammond said. “Because who knows what this October could look like. I’m not trying to be too much of a Negative Nancy but I just go up into the hills and seeing how dry it is – it’s intimidating.”
Hammond has essentially been washing hash since he was a teenager. We asked what it’s been like watching the whole thing become a lot more normalized.
“It’s hard to comprehend coming from the Prop. 215 days. I mean, just the advent of the techniques now, the quality across the board, I mean you’re seeing quality being produced out of just regular home users or recreational users that are phenomenal,” Hammond said. “And then, like you said, the normalcy. I mean, just seeing how much public consumption there is today as you go out through the cities. I feel like it’s so much more relaxed and accepting. It’s awesome in a lot of ways.”
One of the recent challenges in the solventless space has been larger entities entering the space. These blank-check entities can essentially pay top dollar for material and wash it until they figure it out in hopes of long-term commercial viability for their tech. That’s if they didn’t just pay off some random hill kids to set up their room.
How hard is it for a bootstrapped effort like Kalya to fight off those blank checks coming to the marketplace?
“We’ve definitely seen that on a few occasions and there’s something to be said, but I also think that what sets us apart is not only having that long-term knowledge but it’s also the long-term relationship with the farmer,” Hammond said. “You’re only as good as the resin you come from and no matter how much fancy equipment you have, if you don’t understand the resin, have the proper harvest dates, proper genetics, you’re only going to be as good as that.”
And even with those relationships, it’s hard. Hammond admits getting enough material has been one of the bigger challenges of maintaining quality across the board as they’re looking to expand.
“It was tough for us, but we weren’t willing to sacrifice quality for any type of scale. So we’ve been taking our time with it and I feel like we’ve done it the right way,” Hammond said. “Hopefully in the next year or two, you’ll be able to see some Kalya flower on the shelf as well as we look to kind of go to single-source cultivation in the near future.”
Kalya will also be offering a direct-to-consumer option in the near future where Hammond hopes to get grams of rosin out the door to the masses for $60.
Hammond closed by thanking everyone that’s helped them on the journey so far.
“Honestly, I just have gratitude towards the people,” Hammond said. “I mean, the only reason we have any type of traction is the community is from the growers to the people picking it up. It has just been so awesome to see the love come our way. I’m so appreciative and cheerful. We’re living the dream.”