Environmental Stewardship (1 / 5). Raven exercises “True Earth” techniques to feed their soil, which in turn feeds the plant. They don’t throw away their root balls because they’re perfectly ready for the next plant – and they replant them immediately. Sun grown cannabis would earn five points, but could lose some for poor soil care. It’s all part of caring for the environment. Building better soil is a great place to start.
2. Freshness (4 / 5). The freshest buds are the best, so since the soonest a producer can get high-quality buds to the retailer is 1 month, a sample being evaluated at 1 month is at its best. Most of our field ratings will take place at exactly 1 month after harvest as producers are packaging the product. This harvest took place August 14th of last year. Ten months cure and storage made for a very nice smoke.
Terpenes quantified on the Label (4 / 5). The top four terpenes, limonene, nerolidol, caryophyllene and myrcene were quantified on the label. Total terpenes reached over 1.5%. Washington producers are not required to test their harvests for terpene content. It may also be noted that the next terpenes in the dominance line are the summed pinenes (both alpha and beta, when summed, fit exactly behind myrcene).
4. Producer uses approved natural pest control agents and discloses them on the label (5 / 5) and has passed our inspection.
5. Grower has hosted or welcomes a future SeattleBliss/HigherGround420 tour and inspection (5 / 5). All producers are given benefit of doubt until decided otherwise. This means every grower gets these 5-points until we decide at our sole discretion that the points are not deserved. A brief tour demonstrates compliance with laws and improves consumer confidence. Raven was visited in April of 2019 (see video https://youtu.be/dO8E3BUi6Yo).
6. Cannabinoids Labeling (3 / 5). The cannabinoids were properly documented, but I couldn't find a Washington State Unified Business Identifier (UBI) on any of the labels. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board states in WAC 314-55-105; Packaging and labeling requirements, section 2, paragraphs a, iv, A and B state that “Labels… must include: (A) The business or trade name and the UBI of the licensees that produced and processed the marijuana or marijuana products;” and (B) The unique identifier number generated by the WSLCB's traceability system. This must be the same number that appears on the transport manifest;” These numbers are both required as they identify licensees through two different systems. It also helps consumers positively identify source as UBI is accessible online as public record (https://lcb.wa.gov/records/frequently-requested-lists).
Terpene Presence (2 / 5) is evaluated with the First Sniff and is indicative of Concentration as an undetectable sample would rate at 0 and a very strong one at 5. Standard sniff evaluation includes the combined sniffing of the newly opened container AND subsequent grinding of 1 gram and sniffing the freshly-ground product. This step is for evaluating the whole buds in the newly opened container (3.5g jar).
Product Purity is evaluated with the First Sniff and Microscopy (5 / 5). Any impurities may cause an unexpected odor, but should be detectable under the microscope. None were detected via either detection method.
9. Product Color (5 / 5). The intensity of green color in the epidermis of cannabis flowers is an indicator of plant vigor, which could be due to nitrogen availability during late flower, and translates to elevated chlorophyll concentration (R.C. Clarke, 1981). The more white flowers have matured and cured slowly, and thus have allowed chlorophyll harshness to dissipate. Flowers white with trichomes can achieve top ratings here, too. Product is evaluated again for smoothness in the final smoking steps. As stated earlier, Raven maintains some degree of plant vigor right to the end. Living soil can’t just stop feeding the roots, so this translates to improved plant vigor in the ripening stage. Their plants continue producing cannabinoids and terpenes right up until harvest.
10. Product Quality is evaluated during bud inspection (5 / 5). Points can be lost for male flower sites (more common recently due to the feminized seed market), insect or animal evidence, abusive handling, etc. None of these were detected.
11. Product Moisture is also evaluated during bud inspection (5 / 5). The most ideal buds are sponge-like, mostly dry, but a little bit sticky. The consumer will be able to open a bud, spreading the seedless bracts to reveal and snap the central stem without breaking the bud. Observational estimates would suggest about 12% moisture, which is in the 10 to 15% range (where buds are at their best).
Trim Quality (5 / 5). Sample has had all sugar leaves and stems, as well as all leaf matter removed; bud stems < 3 mm. Buds are beautifully manicured.
13. Trichome Density (5 / 5). Flower is densely covered with mostly capitate trichomes.
Harvest Timing (5 / 5). Over 66% (two thirds) of glandular heads are milky-white or turning amber, Less than 33% (one third) are dark amber in color; few clear.
15. Terpene Presence, 2nd Sniff (5 / 5). This step is for evaluating the freshly-ground buds and should garner a higher rating than the first sniff of the buds (unless both rate 5). Whereas the first sniff of the jar was unremarkable, the ground flower was very fragrant.
16. Smoke Terpene Presence, 1st, 2nd taste (5 / 5). Sample was rated only upon how fragrant the smoke was; not how well it was liked. The top four dominant terpenes include nerolidol and caryophyllene, whose molecules are much larger than monoterpenes like limonene and myrcene, which create the top notes of citrus, fruity and sweet. Nerolidol and caryophyllene convey this into woody and peppery nuances, creating something similar to a floral nutmeg.
17. Smoke Smoothness was rated (5 / 5) with no undesired pops, crackles, or unavoidably fast/hot smoke to affect this score.
18. Smoke Pleasantness, 1st, 2nd taste (5 / 5). This evaluation criterion exists because some buds taste/ smell like feces, hay or vomit, perhaps a pesticide or soil amenity influences the taste; the pleasantness of the whole smoke requires rating.
19. Effectiveness (5 / 5). Quite effective. Florals tend to guide one into introspection. It’s no wonder existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre provided inspiration for the name of this strain. The soaring cerebral high was stimulating and enjoyable.
20. Price-Value Rating (PVR), (5 / 5). PVR is calculated based on the price per gram versus the calculated average price regardless of potency. Those equal or above the average price earn 0 points here. Those under the average are scored according to the richness of the value. The $32 package equates to $9.14/g, which casually eases under the $11/g average.
After ten months of curing and storage, this sample earned an overall rating of 89 out of 100 possible points. Only eleven points were lost on environment, freshness (which affected the first sniff) and a couple of labeling items.
Labeling is difficult for everyone, and it’s good to know what is required. Other states have their own requirements, but Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) rules state ALL FOUR of the following are required: “THC concentration (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) listed as total THC and activated THC-A and CBD concentration (cannabidiol) listed as total CBD and activated CBD-A” (WSLCB rules, https://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=314-55-105 WAC Section 2, a, iv, E).
NOTE: The rules have errors. Activated THC-A is THC, and activated CBD-A is CBD. When transcribing these values from the lab report onto your label it is best to transcribe each exactly as the lab has it listed. THC is activated THC, THC-A is the non-activated, acid form of THC, and so on with CBD. For chemotype I (THC-dominant) strains, the best policy is to copy five values; THC-A, THC, Total THC, Total Cannabinoids, and Total CBD values directly from the lab report. This makes everything clear for the consumer, while including everything required by law.
Disclosure: Raven supports Seattle Bliss and Higher Ground by providing hundreds of terpene profiles for their tested product.