The Boo Berry Cereal Of Vape Pens
Fake blueberries and a heavy dose of nostalgia take center stage.
The sky-blue color scheme that wraps around Evolab’s Blueberry iHit disposable vape pen is evocative but unnecessary. Why, you ask? The thing reeks of blueberries. Like someone jammed as many overripe berries as possible into its sleek little tube. Like it’s a scratch-and-sniff sticker on steroids. Like it’s possessed by the ghostly mascot of Boo Berry cereal (who, come to think of it, always looked kind of stoned.)
As part of Evolab’s line of fruit-flavored “Chroma Color” pens, this vape tastes appropriately juicy. Each hit is dripping with the bright and powerful taste of blueberries, overwhelming any hint of cannabis. It was almost surprising that the resulting vapor was your typical grey instead of a neon magenta. For new cannabis consumers, this might be a major plus side, but as a canna-veteran, I know the manufactured flavor won’t sit well with everyone.
“It tastes like artificial blueberry flavoring, the stuff of supermarket muffin mixes and kid cereals.”
The taste brought me right back to the smoky hookah bars my friends and I frequented before such tobacco lounges were nearly regulated out of existence. We used to smoke fruit-flavored tobacco out of statuesque water pipes as we pondered deep subjects with the passion and abandon of destitute post-grads. And just like that shisha, the taste of the Blueberry iHit quickly dissipated, leaving behind a light, body-buzzing high. Truth be told, I never got much of a high from this pen; the experience was more of a gentle euphoria that melted away after an hour or so.
As for that all-important blueberry flavor? Let’s be more specific: The pen doesn’t taste like natural fruit picked from the vine. It tastes like artificial blueberry flavoring, the stuff of supermarket muffin mixes and kid cereals. Yes, Chroma insists it uses only “all natural” fruit flavors in its Chroma pens, but most savvy consumers know the truth about these so-called natural flavors. They’re created in laboratories similarly to artificial flavors. The only difference is that “natural” flavors come from plant or animal matter, while artificial flavors are derived from synthetic substances. In other words, natural and artificial flavors are more or less identical in terms of chemical makeup and nutritional value; they just come from different sources. And when you don’t know this crucial tidbit, one sounds far more appetizing than the other.
There’s still a bigger question at play here. That is, do we want our cannabis tasting like blueberries or pineapple or strawberry daiquiris? With the help of chemical additives, we can now make our marijuana taste like anything under the sun. But should we? For ages, the tell-tale aroma of cannabis was pinned as a signal of something shady and illegal going on. These days, we’re starting to reclaim the smell of weed. We’re starting to recognize it’s as benign and acceptable a scent as the malty smell of a microbrewery or the floral scent of wine grapes on the vine. Should we really be so quick to mask that smell and taste with other stuff?
“We can now make our marijuana taste like anything under the sun. But should we?”
This is an issue that stretches far beyond cannabis. The very big business of synthesized flavors has transformed one of the most basic acts of life. The majority of foods we eat are now corporately designed, fuel-delivery systems, mass-produced portions of nutrients and fillers that are only edible because of synthesized flavors. The smoky taste of the fast-food burger you ate the other night, the sweet allure of the box of cookies in your pantry—it’s all just chemicals. And they’ve all been scientifically calibrated to offer the ultimate in taste gratification, to keep your brain constantly demanding more, more, more. And increasingly, these synthetic flavors have no counterpart in the natural world. When was the last time you tasted anything natural that resembled a Tootsie Roll or cherry-flavored Life Saver?
I pondered these weighty issues as I smoked the Blueberry iHit, thinking deeply like I did when I was back in one of those post-grad hookah bars. I realized I may just be a traditional guy. The kind of guy who prefers things really and truly natural, sans asterisks or caveats. Give me the option of a stinky, old-fashioned joint or a live resin vape pen filled with funky, unprocessed flavors, and I’ll choose that over poser blueberries any day.
But then something funny happened. In the days that followed, more than once I found myself reaching for my little fruity vape pen, savoring its contrived yet pleasing flavor. Maybe it’s just the time of year and its effect on my frame of mind. Summer is awash in Otter Pops and sugary mojitos, so why not enjoy a colorful and zesty smoke session, too?
You could accuse me of being bamboozled by corporate flavor alchemists, one more rube whose olfactory system and taste buds have been hijacked by misleading chemicals for the sake of cold, hard profits. Then again, that’s what happened when I got addicted to Boo Berry cereal as a kid, too. And boy was that stuff delicious.