Published on April 27th, 2020 | by Darren Paltrowitz


Chris Cuvelier On Caliva, Its New CBD-Enhanced Soul Grind Coffee, THC’s Mainstreaming & More

In less than five years, Caliva has grown to be have over 400 employees. As one of the largest indoor cultivation and manufacturing facilities in California, Caliva produces approximately 11,000 pounds of cannabis each year and tens of thousands of more cannabis-related products.

Earlier this year Caliva introduced Soul Grind, a broad-spectrum hemp-CBD unsweetened cold brew coffee. Dr. Han and the Vertosa team created an emulsion system for infusing the hCBD, resulting in maximum absorption. Available in Black, Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla flavors, each 8-ounce can of Soul Grind is comprised of organic cold brew with 100mg caffeine and 10mg broad-spectrum hCBD — a delicate formula deliberately designed to balance the energizing effects of caffeine with calming hCBD. Soul Grind is available nationwide online, as well as in select stores in L.A. and the Bay Area.

To learn more about both the CBD-enhanced Soul Grind and Caliva as a whole, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Cuvelier, Head Of Beverage at Caliva. More on Caliva’s products can be found online by visiting the California-based company’s official website at

Caliva is a top producer of innovative THC and CBD products. But to you, what makes Caliva stand out from other producers within the THC and CBD fields?

Chris Cuvelier: As the market leader in California for branded cannabis products, everyone at Caliva is powered by our passion for plant-based solutions and purpose to deliver natural wellness options. What sets Caliva apart from other companies is really our vision and ability to execute. We’re trying to create the next great American consumer brand, and we make progress against that goal one customer and one product at a time.

As a company, we’re very focused on our customer experience, and are able to have complete control of that from seed-to-sale because we are vertically integrated. Operating on a vertically integrated business model means that we grow our own flower and produce over 200 products at our San Jose facility. By owning the process from product development to selection to actually delivering it at the customers door ultimately means we can fully control the customer experience in a way that best fits our brand.

I believe Soul Grind is your newest label. How would you describe it to someone who hasn’t yet tried it?

Chris Cuvelier: Soul Grind is Caliva’s first beverage, and is the first unsweetened cold brew coffee that infuses 10mg broad-spectrum hCBD into organic cold brew with 100mg caffeine to deliver calm energy. Our formula is deliberately designed to balance the energizing effects of the caffeine naturally occurring in the coffee, with the calming benefits of hCBD. The combination is fantastic, and something that we’ve found consumers are looking for. The balance is truly a unique feeling that doesn’t exist in any ready-to-drink beverage products out there today. People who drink Soul Grind will feel uplifted and energized from the caffeine, yet simultaneously calm and chill so they can focus and ultimately perform in their daily lives.

To get the balance just right, we use a special micro-emulsion process to optimize the amount of hCBD actually absorbed in the bloodstream. Micro-emulsion technology breaks down the hCBD into smaller droplets that enables better absorption at a cellular level, meaning consumers will feel the intended effects sooner. Instead of infusing our products with more mg’s of CBD, it’s more beneficial to each consumer to take a look at how the body processes CBD instead, to ensure the most bang for your buck and prioritize quality over quantity. Soul Grind is available in three flavors: Black, Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla.

Did acquiring Zola change daily operations for Caliva much?

Chris Cuvelier: Zola has operated the Caliva beverage division as a separate entity, which has enabled Caliva to bring hCBD products like Soul Grind to the mainstream market. The Zola team has integrated nicely into Caliva, bringing consumer packaged goods experience to the operating systems and processes as we continue to improve our operational efficiencies during this period of such strong growth.

Do you have a favorite of the Caliva products?

Chris Cuvelier: I am partial to beverage, and the Mexican Chocolate is my favorite flavor of Soul Grind. It is smooth and satisfying with a little spice that gives it a great balance. If I want something stronger, my favorite Caliva product is our vape cartridges. They help me sleep and help me relax when I need to take the edge off.

When in your life did you first become familiar with CBD?

Chris Cuvelier: 6 years ago. I was traveling to the East Coast for work and had been taking Ambien to sleep. I was telling a friend how I did not like the “Ambien hangover” and he suggested a more natural option — cannabis! He gave me an indica vape pen and I loved it because it helped me go to sleep quickly. I stayed asleep all night and I felt great the next day. I have always been healthy, and was immediately drawn to the fact that cannabis was plant-based and all natural. Around that same time, the cannabis business was starting to build momentum and I started doing research.

I learned about CBD as a non-psychoactive option to relax and unwind and started using hemp oil during stressful days. Zola was purchased in 2016 by a growth advisory private equity firm called KarpReilly. After the transaction, we did some consumer research and doubled down on plant-based solutions on everything in our product portfolio. As CBD awareness continued to grow, I realized there was an opportunity for Zola to get into the hCBD space – Zola had the unique ability to be nimble and entrepreneurial combined with the experience to scale and grow the business rapidly to take things national when ready.

When did you first notice it to be normal and not at all taboo to be interested in THC or CBD-related culture?

Chris Cuvelier: I have watched this change rapidly for the better over the past five years. Cannabis related culture has been gaining popularity in the mainstream and this has really accelerated in the past two years. I believe this is due to people looking for plant-based solutions as better options for their sleep, pain and anxiety, and the focus of new brands coming into the market that are targeting the mainstream consumer with education and appealing packaging.

It is amazing to sit in one of our Caliva dispensaries and watch the wide breadth of customer mix — soccer moms looking for something to help them sleep, elderly people searching for pain relief, and of course consumers looking for some natural “fun for you” products. Today, I think THC and CBD are part of the mainstream culture and not something taboo for the majority of people in North America.

The world is currently in flux, but what is planned for your company in the coming months and years?

Chris Cuvelier: We are working to develop a product portfolio that enables everyone to have an entry point into cannabis by creating products that people can use daily, and by targeting different consumer segments and price points. We’re continuing to make progress against this goal and are excited to roll out additional infused-beverages in the coming months.

Is there a Caliva accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Chris Cuvelier: Creating a successful product from the ground up is never easy and involves a lot of things that all need to work together to connect with the consumer. I was intimately involved in the creation of Soul Grind including branding, packaging, formulation, sourcing, production and distribution of the product. The best feeling is to walk into a store and see the shelf almost empty because the product is selling quickly. People can tell you they like the product, but the true measure of success is the consumer actually buying it.

When not busy with Caliva, where does your free time usually go?

Chris Cuvelier: I live in a small beach town called Half Moon Bay with my wife Jacquie, two daughters Ashlyn and Charlotte, and my miniature golden retriever named Delilah. If I am not working, I am either hanging with my family, walking the dog on the beach or surfing with friends. I am also involved in a local passion project called the Mavericks Surf Awards which keeps me busy outside of Caliva.

Since you are presumably stuck inside like most of us, what are you currently enjoying for the sake of entertainment?

Chris Cuvelier: I am lucky to live in Half Moon Bay where we have the beach and mountains. The area is small and it is easy to social distance so I have been doing yoga on the beach, paddle boarding in the harbor with my dog, or hiking with my family. I have also been binge watching Ozark with my wife. Ozark is really intense, so I can’t watch it right before bed or else I need to take more THC to sleep!

Finally, Chris, any last words for the kids?

Chris Cuvelier: I just want to note how thankful I am for our essential workers at Caliva. They’re out there each and every day on the frontlines ensuring that our customers can still safely access the cannabis products they rely on for their overall well-being, and I just want to take a moment to express my appreciation for everything they’re doing.

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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World,, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" series, which airs on dozens on television and digital networks. He has also co-authored 2 published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), and co-hosts the world's only known podcast about David Lee Roth, "The DLR Cast."

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