Articles Interviews Skunk Magazine

Five Questions With Raw Garden’s Khalid Al-Naser: Head of Product

Khalid Al-Naser

Raw Garden represents to me a certain coherence with the plant. The highest possible quality flowers are extracted through technology into each of their brilliant products.

Now, Raw Garden is offering a new education program for budtenders. Each session raises the bar on the sense of superiority and their taste of the place or terroir.

Raw Garden’s portfolio of experiences offers a timely and tangible vision into the healing art of cannabis.

These are some of the best examples of what your money can buy in the art of cannabis concentrates.

Warren Bobrow=WB:

Please tell me about yourself and your passions. What are you working on right now?

Khalid Al-Naser=KAN:

I am currently the Head of Product at Raw Garden but have worn many hats since the company’s inception.  Whatever hat I have on, the passion has always been about constant process improvement and delivering the best Cannabis products we can. This is the driving force behind the entire team at Raw Garden.

WB: How are you training budtenders? Do you talk to them about terroir? What about aromatics/terps?  

KAN: Raw Garden has launched The Raw Garden Social Club which is an interactive trade education program designed to champion budtenders and build community.

We love engaging with budtenders and letting their questions and curiosities guide the conversation. When it comes to training, it usually revolves around aromas and getting the audience in tune with how we do what we do, and what makes Raw Garden different. We want to convey that controlling the process from seed to finished product allows for greater quality control. The result is a more consistent product for the consumer.  

The conversations about quality and supply chain usually center around cultivation, our drive to perfect cultivation, and our push to innovate with the ingredients the Cannabis plant provides. This is one place where I often talk about aromatics and terroir. I like to highlight the fact that we depend wholly on the Cannabis plant to provide our product ingredients.  For instance, we are one of only a few companies that do not use non-cannabis flavor additives to their vape oil. We depend solely on the natural aromatics that come from the plant we grew.  

Aromatics are an important part of what the Cannabis plant produces, and just like other agricultural commodities, the terroir and growing process impact the outcome. With higher value goods, like wine, those outcomes are usually enhanced by the recording of vintage and provenance (or location).

One of our goals is to help guide budtenders and consumers toward entirely Cannabis based products, and away from the mass of non-Cannabis flavored THC products in the market today. We want to elevate the experience through using nothing but the plant’s natural aromatics. These aromatics drive the cannabis connoisseur, and by association, the budtender is expected to be that connoisseur.  

WB: What was your inspiration for this path in cannabis training?

KAN: The inspiration comes from my love of craftsmanship, artistry, food, and aromas!  You pair that with a hunger to learn about the things I enjoy –like getting high and providing great products to the consumer– and the training just happens naturally and with serious pleasure. The Cannabis plant truly facilitates the joys of learning. 

I think there are a lot of similarities between cannabis and wine, and cannabis and food. When you consume something and form a close relationship with it, the “art” of consumption (in part) becomes about the critiquing of that “thing” and the willingness to slow down and assess it, savor it. 

I believe this awareness enhances the experience and I want the consumer and the budtenders to have the best experiences possible.

WB: What is your favorite food? Made by whom? What’s your favorite wine?

KAN: Right now, I am really enjoying the food made by Chef Budi at the Gathering Table, which is a great little place at the Ballard Inn in the Santa Ynez Valley. — They make dishes inspired by the Chef’s experiences and likes. He often leans into Asian infusion creating incredible dishes that are unique, fresh takes on traditional dishes. Everything from the Hamachi to the Pan Fried Noodles, the Sliders with Pork Belly and Quail Egg or the Lamb Chops are all winners! Everything on Chef Budi’s menu is great! I usually like to go with a group and order as much of the menu as possible. I always recommend the Chef’s Caramel Budino to anyone looking for a real treat at the end of the meal.

(Wine) I would have to say more broadly, the Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in the Santa Ynez Valley (where we farm) has been where I have spent most of my time recently. I have found that I really like the medium bodied pinots with notes of date and caramelly raisin. I also really enjoy the diversity of the grape; it offers lots of different experiences.  — I have also been enjoying drinking and learning about Tokaji. It’s a Hungarian dessert wine with a long and storied history that inspires me to want to learn more about its process and history. 

WB: What is your favorite, indoor or outdoor grown?

KAN: Outdoor and indoor grown THC is the same molecule.  One method may produce slightly more or less of this active ingredient within the same plant.  However, the biggest differences in the two methods can be recognized by the richness of the aromatics produced.  Anecdotally, most of my favorite aromas have come from the plants we’ve grown outdoors.

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