Looking back over the last ten years the cannabis industry has evolved immensely. Legacy farmers would compost and burn their cannabis ‘shake’ or ‘trim’ and made a profit solely from the trimmed flower. The industry moved through a growth spurt, evolved a bit, and soon there was distillate and cannabis oil cartridges. Year after year innovators pushed the industry to new heights. Mad scientists of sorts working sleepless nights letting their imaginations loose perfecting products and crystallizing the process used to achieve them. Taher Afghani (co-founder of Standard Extracts and co-owner of Terplandia) dives deeper into his journey: Breaking down the process of how his desire to create a pure and safe product for consumers evolved to producing high-quality pure cannabis-derived terpenes. A product utilized by other industry leaders as a flavoring additive and now available for enthusiasts to use in their everyday life.
In 2015 my focus was to create a best-in-class vape pen. I quickly realized that three things were needed to accomplish this: Optimal purpose built hardware, AAA-grade cannabis oil, and a catalogue of quality terpenes. Many foggy nights were consumed sourcing, testing, and down-selecting hardware designs out of Shenzhen China. Then came the oils gauntlet that trialed the products produced from the industry’s primary methods of extraction ( E.g., Hydrocarbon, CO₂, and Ethanol) to dial-in our specifications for Delta-9 THC Distillate. To anyone in the industry its known that viscosity of high grade distillate is very high – notably thicker than molasses. This is where a lot of operators at the time pivoted to the cutting agents for the oil. We did not want to use other cutting agents like Coconut oil or VG / PG blends. Our main objective was to provide the best taste and overall experience while remaining unadulterated and as close to capturing the quintessence and experiential effects of the flower. I believe consumers should be aware of what agents are used to flavor the products they are consuming. As well as know that real cannabis terpenes can increases the experience they are wanting with products.
In the beginning, I remember studying the lab work on cultivars like Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies and being pulled toward terpene analysis. I could see there were various percentages of common terpenes such as Myrcene, Limonene, Beta Caryophyllene, and knowing that all the other terpenoids all played a role like all the pieces of an orchestra to create the totality of the user experience and the efficacy for the medicinal patient. Since we did not have access to the right caliber of biomass, let alone the capability to extract best-in-class terpenes, we decided to trial botanical terpenes from online resellers. Purchases were made for all terpenes we saw based on their presence as reported in lab results. Our thought was to re-create cannabis profiles using botanical terpenes and use those profile percentages to flavor and dial in the viscous flow optimal for vape pen hardware. Novel for that time, this has become a predominant approach; and feeds the market for companies that sell botanical terpenes to other industries.
All was not smooth and terpy; I was not happy with the results of early formulations. The vape formulations were harsh on the thrust, tasted nothing like the actual strain, and resulted in profiles that felt more like a household cleaning product. It was clear we were in fact as mile 20 of the marathon and had more to go.
I was referred to a contact known only at the time as the Wizard. Famous for his amazing Burning Man art installations. Moreover, he garnered a fair amount of additional accolades creating successful distillation systems employed by the essential oil industry. During a visit, he introduced me to a 5-Liter custom glass system that would hold approximately a pound of cannabis. He showed me how to set it up and use it. Later that night I put half a pound of OG biomass in the small glass distillation system and pulled a few milliliters of terpenes. I was ecstatic with the results and the feedback that came back from clients using the product it was formulated into was equally amazing. We were off to the races and filled our first round of vape pen orders with pure strain-specific terpenes. The taste and experience were far better than anything we had ever produced. They were a total success.
Upon reporting the good news back to the Wizard and he took me behind the curtain and showed me a much larger systems (500+ Liter systems) that could work in sequence for the same application at scale. With the tech and vision for scale laid before me, the next goal was to bring larger systems to the mecca of cannabis, Humboldt County, California.
Once relocated to Humboldt, we set up our first three 100-Liter steam distillation systems and began creating cannabis-derived strain-specific terpenes at scale. A first-of-its-kind Vacuum Steam Distillation system that would extract terpenes under a vacuum (45 degrees C compared to 100 C); this allowed for less heat, less degradation, and better-quality terpenes and larger yields. We created an SOP for a post-process on our terpenes as well. Our final product was pure and water-clear. This helped to increase their potency and improve the smell and taste. Ensuring we removed unwanted constituents such as chlorophyll, lipids, and water.
An advantage of using our custom Vacuum Steam Distillation process is our terpenes have zero THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoids present. This is key for compliance. Our profiles fall under the 2018 farm bill allowing us to ship them nationwide. This opened up our product to be available to various Delta 8 brands and CBD brands outside of California. All the profiles we make pass Category III testing in California the most stringent testing standard. For Potency, Pesticides, microbial, heavy metals, and residual solvents.
We also make and use hydrocarbon and even CO₂ systems to create high-quality terpenes. However, those all had THC and other cannabinoids present – limiting them to the local market. When comparing the cost and ability to scale, using our systems made more financial sense. We developed mobile units offering the ability to bring our systems to the farms allowing us to create live terpenes using live plant material and extracting onsite. This process creates the largest yields and best quality terpenes, cutting down on labor and skipping the curing and drying process. Once we extract the biomass for terpenes we essentially wash and decarboxylate the plant material, setting up the material for ethanol extraction of cannabinoids. Our process is a value add and does not touch the cannabinoids in the plant material since boiling points are notably lower than the temps required to pull heavier cannabinoid molecules. It should be known that terpenes are ruined in the cannabinoid extraction and distillation process; burning up millions of dollars of terpenes in their extraction process. The terpenes are arguably the most valuable part of the plant. We remove them safely before they are wasted in the normal extraction and distillation process.
As far as the future we are looking forward to getting access to some of the best genetics in the world, farmed organically by some of the best farms in the industry. The right genetics, farms, growing environment, equipment, and processes will lead to better and more expressive terpene profiles every season. We enjoy the flexibility of working with hemp growers who have special genetics that is low in THC but has amazing terpene profiles. This allows us to create large quantities of terpene profiles so we can service the best-in-class Cannabis and Hemp Operators. We are also excited about the prospects asking for Terplandia brand and equipment internationally.
If you are a brand, white-label manufacturer, dispensary, or enthusiast and have questions about terpenes please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to review lab results, pricing, or request samples visit our website at www.terplandia.com