A New Frontier in Classifying and Judging Cannabis Flower: The Emerald Cup Does it Right! 

7 min readPublished On: June 3rd, 2022By

By Marcel Menard —As breeders, cultivators, judges and tastemakers continue to push the boundaries and reveal the deeper layers of what defines ‘quality’ in cannabis, the terpene conversation remains central to the discussion. 

“Dang that flower is really dank and gassy! It also has a nice citrus note like meyer lemons, and even some pepper and licorice in the mix. It seems to help me focus and also offers some overall sense of relaxation and calm while still getting things done.” 

Congrats! We have graduated beyond just the bro science of the THC driven Indica and Sativa weed craze. Thanks to some really dedicated scientists and researchers in the space, we can actually talk about the aroma, flavor and potential effects of cannabis with real science backed data! 

Let’s back up and look at where we came from- “If it looks good and smells good, then it must be good!”. We owe so much to the legacy folks who risked everything to keep cultivating the plant and culture; however, years of prohibition and risky indoor growing led to a bottleneck of cannabis genetics as breeders and growers selected for shorter indoor flowering times and desired higher THC plants with bang for the buck. In other words, we lost a lot of genetic diversity in the cannabis gene pool over those years, but luckily we have breeders who have preserved unique lines of heirloom or landrace cultivars that are being brought back into the fold that can offer an amazing depth of complexity in cannabinoid and terpene expression and could represent the medicine of the future. 

Where are we now!? The notion that flower with higher percentages of THC is what defines quality, has been completely debunked by science. However, the tools or path to get the consumer and industry beyond the Indica, Hybrid and Sativa gate posts, was looking bleak until now. Those dedicated warriors of the lab analytical testing world stepped up to help us to define a new way to classify cannabis, sort of like we do wine. 

The result of over a decade of testing cannabis and especially secondary metabolites like terpenes and flavonoids, Josh Wurzer and the SC Labs team have truly been holding it down at the cutting edge of the cannabis testing paradigm. As Josh explains, “We have been testing for multiple cannabis competitions for years and the Emerald Cup for the last 10 years. About 7 of those years we have been doing terpene testing. The Emerald Cup is a blind judged taste test. The Judges don’t have access to the lab reports or the name of the strain or product, just the blind sample in front of them. Truly blind. When you compare the 100s of entries that don’t make the cut to the winning strains, the THC levels are the same. The average THC scores are almost the same. Total cannabinoids, again almost the same between the winners and the entries. So what differentiates the winners vs entrants in the analytical testing results? It is the terpene content! The top 20 winners have significantly higher terpene content.” 

This really elevated the conversation about terpenes and how we should be classifying and judging cannabis flower as an industry and consumer. One of the main revelations from years of testing cannabis, is that most of what we find in the modern market are hybrids or even poly hybrids and they can have a lot of phenotypic variability and uniqueness however, the majority of flower on the commercial market can be classified into a handful of dominant terpene profiles that can give better clues as to what effects a user might experience. Most of modern cannabis on the commercial market is very high in b-Myrcene with little or no Terpinolene, Pinene and other less common terpenes like Ocimene. This classification of dominant terpenes helps us have a more granular way to describe the spectrum of chemotypes and their effects from stimulating to sedative found in cannabis flower, rather than just ‘Indica, Hybrid and Sativa’ classifications. 

Then when SC Labs and Napro research teamed up to offer PhytoFacts things got even more exciting! According to Mark Lewis, Ph.D. of Napro Research, “PhytoFacts didn’t appear out of thin air. It came from an urgent need in the cannabis sector. Breeders, buyers, producers, and 

ultimately consumers needed a quick reference and easy-to-understand guide to know their products. PhytoFacts began as an attempt to finally make lab results legible and valuable for everyone, no matter their position in the supply chain or educational background.” 

“Besides aromatic profile, effects are one of the most important characteristics for consumers. At the time of development, consumers discovered a cultivar’s effects through self-testing or budtender intel. This was largely based on problematic associations to the outdated indica, sativa, and hybrid terminology. Through extensive terpene testing at Napro and review of the relevant body of research, we’ve developed a rubric that displays the expected entourage effect produced by the terpenoid contribution. Now, the consumer can visually scan the PhytoFacts® report to glean insight into predicted entourage effects.” 

Image: Participant from Emerald Cup

Then if that wasn’t enough, Alec Dixon a veteran cannabis judge and co-founder of SC Labs, and other amazing minds in the space including Joe Sullivan of Mercy Wellness, Michael Backes, Perfect, ECA founder Tim Blake, Ryan Lee from Chimera all worked together to define these new classifications for the judging process. “The Emerald Cup is revolutionizing the cannabis judging process by categorizing entries by terpene content. This aids the judges in narrowing in on the winners and honoring the best chemotypes of each of these primary terpene classes,” said Alec Dixon. 

The Emerald Cup is again setting the bar for another year of game changing in the space! The 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards, co-Producers Tim and Taylor Blake “We’re excited to empower our judges with the proper tools so The Emerald Cup can uphold the integrity of our process and our brand,” 

Dubbed the Academy Awards of the cannabis industry, The 2022 Emerald Cup Competition & Awards presented by Boveda and PurePressure by Agrify, will take it up a notch and reveal the best in cannabis on center stage at the Montalbán Theatre in legendary Hollywood, CA Saturday May 14th, 2022. The awards presentation will be viewable on ALTRD.TV, https://www.altrd.tv 

The classes of the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification Based on PhytoFacts® powered by SC Labs include: 

‘Jacks + Haze’ Class 

– Mostly ‘Sativa’-leaning varietals 

– Tasting notes – Fruity, Pinesol, Haze 

– Effects – Energizing, Cerebral, Artistically Inspiring 

– Common Cultivars – Classic Trainwreck, Jack Herer, Durban Poison, Super Lemon Haze – Terpenes Profile: Terpinolene, Caryophyllene, Myrcene 

‘Tropical + Floral’ Class 

– Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals 

– Tasting notes – Sweet, Floral, Tropical Fruit 

– Effects – Calming, Soothing, Relaxing 

– Common Cultivars – Super Skunk, Hawaiian, In the Pines, Dream Queen – Terpenes Profile: Ocimene, Myrcene 

‘Sweets + Dreams’ Class 

– Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals 

– Tasting Notes – Fruity, Sweet, Woody, Hoppy, Herbaceous 

– Effects – Relaxation, Couch Lock, Analgesic 

– Common Cultivars – Blue Dream, Tangie, Forbidden fruit, Grandaddy Purple, Purple Urkel, Grape Ape, Cherry AK, God’s Gift, Purple Punch 

– Terpenes Profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene 

‘OGs + Gas’ Class 

– True ‘Hybrid’ varietals 

– Tasting Notes – Gas, Fuel, Sweet, Citrus, and Pepper 

– Effect – Uplifting, Stimulating, Analgesic, Relaxation 

– Common Cultivars – Classic OG Kush, ChemDawg, Sour Diesel, Gorilla Glue – Terpenes Profile: Any combination or shifting codominance of Caryophyllene, Limonene, Myrcene 

‘Desserts’ Class 

– True ‘Hybrid’ varietals 

– Tasting Notes – Deserts, Doughs, Citrusy & Spicy

– Effects – Stimulating, Racy, Uplifting, ComfortingCommon Cultivars – Classic Bubba Kush, GSC, Gelatos, Cakes 

– Any shift in codominance of Caryophyllene & Limonene 

‘Exotics’ (Rare Terpene Combinations) Class 

– True ‘Hybrid’ varietals 

– Tasting notes – varied based on chemistry of entry 

– Effect – varied based on chemistry of entry 

– Common Cultivars – rarest terpene profiles entered into the Emerald Cup Competition 

For a full break down and examples visit: 

https://enter.theemeraldcup.com/terpene-classes

Sources/ Credits: 

https://enter.theemeraldcup.com/terpene-classes 

https://www.sclabs.com/resources/understand-your-phytofacts 

https://terpenesandtesting.com/phytofacts-standardizing-the-way-we-talk-about-terpenes 

https://kymkemp.com/2022/02/02/the-18th-annual-emerald-cup-shakes-things-up-with-a-new-cl assification-system-with-an-eye-on-terpenes/ 

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-emerald-cup-2021-and-sc-labs-partner-on-new data-driven-approach-to-judging-301265

About the Author: News Team

Newsteam at Highly Capitalized are some of the most experienced writers in cannabis and psychedelics business & finance. We cover capital markets, finance, branding, marketing and everything important in between. Most of all, we follow the money.

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