Peak Extracts was founded in Portland in 2014, but by then Katie Stem, founder and CEO, had already been a medical patient for nearly ten years, and had been making Single-Strain Chocolates to control symptoms of her Crohn’s disease for most of that time. She discovered that specific strains of cannabis were of great help but others didn’t do much good or had unwanted side effects. Her goal was to be able to control both the dosage and the effects of cannabis administration, in a time where both were commonly left to chance. The goal was to provide the same custom-tailored edibles experience to Oregon medical market. As Peak transitioned to the adult use market in 2016 and were one of the first edibles processors licensed in Oregon.
What makes us stand out
Being Single Strain sets us apart– no other edible maker has offered such a custom and versatile experience. Besides that, since we do all our own extraction, we get to choose the best material, and have our own way of processing it that we’ve honed for many years. The idea is to retain as many terpenes, flavonoids and nuances of the original flower as possible. Katie has a background in laboratory science and spent more than a decade doing research, and she has a fabulous time playing mad scientist in our lab.
We work primarily with Alter Farms and East Fork Cultivars, with some smaller side projects with other growers. We take this collaboration very seriously– we want to know that the people growing the cannabis we use have values and practices aligned with our own. In addition, because we have so many strains and move through them so quickly, we end up spending a lot of time communicating with these companies, so personal dynamics are very important. We look for people who care about sustainability, environmental impact, and medicinal benefits of cannabis. Both of our primary partners are extremely forward-thinking and dedicated. We love working with them.
We get our chocolate from a company that specializes in gourmet dark chocolate couverture that’s suitable for making bars–it was a long process to find someone who could supply in large enough quantities to sustain us, that would also maintain consistency between lots and batches. They blend from different regions and the three main cacao cultivars to ensure a uniform and consistent product. Since the point is to feature each strain, we didn’t want differences in the base chocolate to detract from that. They have asked us not to name them outright, but we enjoy working with them, and they value sustainability– and their chocolate is delicious.
Chocolate bar production – from flower to final product
We take cannabis flower from our farm partners and prepare it using our proprietary method–lots of secrets during this part– and extract it using CO2. Our parameters are closely guarded and a result of many years of experimentation and research. We don’t use any additional solvents, just a lot of care and deliberation. The oil is infused into the chocolate while it is undergoing the tempering process, which creates the glossy, snappy chocolate we’ve come to expect from a candy bar.
Katie used many solvents to extract natural products (such as green tea, grape seed, etc.) during her years of research– so there was a fair amount of deliberation. The hydrocarbons have some advantages, but in the end it was an obvious choice for us to use CO2 because of the environmental impact. When we’re done processing our material, it goes back to the farm and is composted and reintegrated into their soil–unlike with butane, where the waste material is hazardous and must be incinerated. In addition, the hydrocarbons and ethanol are flammable. Since our facility is in the city, we wanted to minimize potential safety risks. We’ve learned to use CO2 to our best advantage in order to retain valuable compounds–it’s an extremely versatile solvent that can be used in broad range of temperatures, flow rates and pressures depending on what you’d like to extract.
How we choose strains
We curate our strains based on six general categories. They’re classified based on effects, and color-coded so people don’t necessarily have to know anything about the strain in order to pick the right one. We divide into indica and sativa dominant, and within those we catalog them either bright or heavy. For instance, a heavy indica (purple) would be something like 9 lb. Hammer, which most everyone will agree is very sedating, whereas a heavy sativa (red) has the energizing effects, but with that buzzy, intense feeling that GG4 or Sour Diesel bring to the table. The bright options are more functional and lucid. An example of a bright indica (blue) is Blueberry Cookies, which is social and up, but with a definite indica body feel. The bright sativa is meant to be almost all cerebral, and extremely active. We usually recommend those for hiking or long bouts of housework. We also have a Hi CBD category, where we have a 2:1 offering, and a low THC option. The final category is the green color, which is hybrid or “wildcard”. Sometimes we find a strain we really want to feature, but it doesn’t fit into one of our categories, so we put it there.
The story behind Rescue Rub
Our CEO and Founder, Katie, is also a Chinese herbalist. She maintains an acupuncture and herbal medicine practice in Portland that she’s had since 2010. She created the formula for Rescue Rub based on a topical herbal combination for blunt force trauma and inflammation that was written more than 2,000 years ago. She used it in her practice to treat arthritis and muscle pain, then when Peak was formed she modified the formula by adding cannabis oil. We have reports of it helping with everything from neuropathy to muscle strains to healing tattoos. The other herbs in the formula synergize with the THC, a known analgesic, and create a stronger topical that is absorbed faster into the tissues. It takes about 5 minutes to take effect and lasts about 4 hours. We’ve found it to be invaluable for people who need pain relief but are worried about psychoactive effects.
The stories we hear are a constant inspiration. A Vietnam Veteran contacted us to tell us that he had horrible nerve damage to his legs from the war, and had been unable to put a sheet or blanket over his legs since. He used the Rescue Rub before bed and was able to sleep through the night with covers on for the first time since the early 70s. Needless to say, we were all crying by the end of his story. There are so many success stories with the chocolate as well. From endometriosis to insomnia to chemotherapy induced nausea, we hear about how are chocolate makes a positive impact on people’s quality of life. We’re also incredibly proud of the company we’ve built. It really did just start as two people who were passionate about the benefits of cannabis– and now we have a factory, many employees and a diverse product line. It’s been an incredible journey.
We hope to continue expanding our product line, while maintaining our dedication to quality. Our cartridge line debuted in January of 2018, with a focus on CBD cultivars. We’ve been able to explore some fascinating strains with both of our big partners, and we’re thrilled with the results. It took us years to get the right parameters to keep all the terpenes and flavonoids intact for this application, and although we’re constantly making minor tweaks, our average cartridge has around 10% terpenes, which is much higher than the industry average. We have a few more products in the pipeline that we’re excited about as well, and there’s always discussions about expanding to other states.