The founders of Pupa Bags, the Kerala-based sustainable brand that makes bags out of hemp, have now explored a new venture. Dedicating their lives to promoting sustainable living, Midhun and Dr Subasish decided to introduce hemp into the food and beverage industry for the first time in Kerala and India. Their cafe, Hemp Station, located in Calicut, is India’s first hempseed milkshake cafe. Now, before you typecast their brand because of its hemp-based relationship, hear their story out.
Will Hemp Make You High?
Hemp falls under the cannabis umbrella and is specifically grown for industrial or medicinal purposes. It’s not weed even though it translates to ‘kanjaav’ in Malayalam. Unfortunatly, in the Malayalam lingo, we don’t have a specific word for hemp, which drastically differs from cannabis. Now in India, the buying and selling of hemp are legal and only a few states in India have growing licenses. Not many people are aware of this.
Despite its legal status, people’s blurred understanding of hemp and cannabis is skewed. The stereotype that hemp products can make you high still exists today, even though it has no psychoactive effects. Products with hemp in it, by law, can have no more than 0.3 per cent THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the cannabinoid molecule that influences the psychotic effects in cannabis.
The Beginning of Hemp Station
On 15th November 2021, the FCCI (Food Safety And Standards Authority Of India) stated, “Hemp seed, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour shall be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale subject to conforming standards.” This opened up a new industry for entrepreneurs who’ve been waiting to make use of hemp in food and beverages. Banking on this movement, Midhun and Dr Subasish founded Hemp Station on May 1st, 2022 to promote hempseed-infused milkshakes and food.
Speaking to PinkLungi, Midhun shared, “There’s a cafe in Kasol that is known for their hempseed infusion in their food and beverage offerings. But they use it minimally. For example, if you drink their coffee, you’ll find powdered hemp sprinkled for aesthetic purposes. So, it isn’t a pure hemp product. At Hemp Station, however, we use milk made out of hempseed, which is 100% vegan. This milk is what we use in our milkshake offerings. Your taste palette will enjoy a new experience at our cafe.”
Hemp Station currently offers three categories of hempseed milkshakes:
- Hempseed milk and seasonal fruits based milkshakes
- Hempseed milk and dairy yoghurt smoothies
- Hempseed milk and dairy icecream milkshakes
“We also serve momos and spring rolls which are not made using hempseed. However, we soon plan to launch salads and sandwiches made with hempseed,” shared Midhun.
When we asked what makes hempseed milk a better alternative to cow’s milk, Midhun mentioned that hempseed milk is one of the richest sources of protein. In fact, it is the vegan alternative to Omega Fatty Acids. Vegetarians in India lack this particular source of nutrient in their bodies but hempseed milk can promise them that.
Challenges In Making Hempseed Acceptable
There’s no doubt that the first question people ask the founders of Hemp Station is whether their products will make them high. On top of that, they are tagged as Kanjaav peddlers. The business of introducing hemp into the Indian market is not a bed of roses.
Midhun narrated a story where he had to stay a night in jail because police officials accused him of pedalling weed in the state. He shared, “We were coming back from the TKM Fest in Kollam where we had set up a Hemp Station stall. On our way back home, the police stopped us to do their checking. At that time, there was a special combing session by the police. When they saw that we had bags of hempseed, they immediately took action without really giving us an opportunity to explain. On top of that, they had used a faulty meter that faked a positive when we took the blow test. We were taken to the police station and made to stay a night in a jail cell. They made such a hue and cry of the situation that higher officials were called. Throughout the night, we sat there explaining the legality of our business and the hemp industry in India. After discussing for hours, they understood. We were left in the morning.
Our car was confiscated by them too. So when we asked the police to return it, they said that a court case has been filed in our name and that once that is solved, would get our car back. Despite explaining the legal aspects of our business, they still went ahead with a court case because of their ego. Our lawyer later confessed that the police wanted to “teach us a lesson for being arrogant” and that’s why they filed a case.”
Running a hemp-based business is not easy, especially when the system itself is against you. The founders of Hemp Station and Pupa Bags have had their share of challenges, but it is their passion to present the world with a sustainable and healthy alternative that can literally change lives.
“We want to live a life with dignity. We want others to follow suit and see the difference they can make. Do you know that humans consume the equivalent of a credit card worth of plastic every week? Every week, note that point. Do you also know that more than half of the world’s population is lactose intolerant and that we don’t really have to consume an animal’s milk? Hempseed milk is not only the perfect, sustainable alternative to animal milk, but it is also highly proteinous,” shared Midhun. That’s why you should drop by Hemp Station in Calicut.
They plan on expanding their operations to other cities in Kerala and South India, so stay tuned.
What’s in Store for the Future?
Midhun and Dr Subasish are also looking to create a hemp-based cosmetic line that will be sustainable and ethical compared to its counterparts.