While NYC lawmakers are deciding the future of CBD sold in food and beverages, new CBD-themed establishments continue to pop up around the city, confident that this boom will outlast whatever regulations are thrown in their way. The latest space to embrace the CBD craze is Buds and Beans, which opened about a month ago on Vanderbilt Ave in Prospect Heights.
The small cafe is run by Greek owner Giannis Houmis, who moved to NYC from his native Greece in November 2012 with just $1,000 to help him get started. "I've been working in hospitality all my life," said the 30-year-old Houmis, who quickly learned English after arriving here and managed to work his way up the restaurant industry, eventually opening up and managing a number of coffee shops for large restaurant groups (including LDV Hospitality and 2Beans). But his dream was always to open up his own place.
When Houmis saw the CBD boom taking off, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He was already a CBD evangelist, regularly taking it himself and getting it for his mother, who uses it to manage her arthritis and sleeping problems. "I wanted to go with a pure CBD isolate that offers better results for people who really need it," he said, adding, "you can go across the street and the deli sells CBD—but it's garbage! Very, very low quality!"
So he traveled to Colorado to find a high-quality, certified source who continues to provide him with all the CBD isolate he has to offer at the cafe. This isolate powder can be added to any drink on the menu for an additional $3. Each “dose” is just over 20mg and has no taste. He estimates that roughly 50% of his customers add CBD to their drinks. "In the beginning, people are a little skeptical, and once they try it, they tend to come back for more," he said. Eventually, many start buying the 1g vials available for $50 each.
As for the drinks menu there, the lattes are excellent, but some more unique offerings include ingredients like turmeric and beet. And then there's the Freddo: it's a coffee drink in which the espresso is frothed and cooled, then poured over ice and topped with a very thick frothed skim milk. You can get the beet and turmeric drinks as a cold Freddo, as well, though I found the hot versions to be more robust and flavorful—the Freddo is still refreshing though, and the creamy milk topper is a treat.
Houmis plans to start offering a larger selection of CBD products soon, including vapes, oils, capsules, creams and other packaged drinks, but is taking his time to find sources he trusts. This attention to quality goes beyond Houmis's interest in just CBD: he notes that the hot chocolate is made from melted Swiss chocolate (“not powder!”) and that the Greek pastries are made in Greece and shipped frozen overnight and baked in-house. The colorful cookies are also baked in-house, and other pasties are delivered daily from Patisserie Vanessa in Harlem.
"I'm standing behind my product—I try to have the best of the best," he said. Other offerings from local vendors include Bears Fruit Kombucha, Recess CBD-infused sodas, Marvé cold-pressed juices and coffee beans from For Five Roasters. None of the regular food options are CBD infused, mainly because Houmis wants to be able to stock them fresh daily, though he sometimes offers a limited number of CBD glazed donuts on busy weekends.
And as for the CBD foods and drinks embargo currently being debated by lawmakers, Houmis says the DOH contacted him in February, and let him know that it might become illegal to add CBD to food and drinks, and that if the law does change, he'll have to stop offering his CBD shots. He is confident that his business model will survive, however, noting that even if it passes this summer, the embargo states that “it is unlawful to add CBD to food or drinks” but won’t keep him from selling individual doses on the side for customers to mix into their drinks on their own.
And Houmis believes he will still be able to continue selling packaged products that are already infused with CBD such as gummies, chocolates, isolates and oils. “I don’t understand why New York wants to make it so complicated” he says, but “even if it happens, I’m going to work around the system.”
Buds & Beans is located at 564 Vanderbilt Ave in Brooklyn.