mini-review: Gregorys & CBD

I’d been meaning to check out Gregorys, a well-reputed New York City chain that has recently established itself in the DC area. I’ve also seen several references to CBD as an additive to coffee drinks, and noticed it at many coffee places in Vermont (which also sold CBD edibles), and wanted to give it a try. Gregorys just happens to offer CBD as an option for its drinks, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone this week.

First, CBD. I am going to try really hard to make it through this post without any hacky, throwaway marijuana jokes. Wish me well.

CBD is shorthand for cannibidiol, a canniboid extracted from Cannabis and usually injested as an oil. Unlike THC, it is not an intoxicant, so if you’re hoping that some CBD in your drink or baked into a treat will get you high, you’ll be disappointed. There are several claims to health and therapeutic benefits from taking CBD, but it seems that the science is not yet settled though an epilepsy medication is FDA-approved and in use. CBD is a legal substance in several US jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, but it seems there are some uncertainties depending on whether CBD is derived from hemp (little to no THC, so fine) or from marijuana (risk of THC contamination). I am in no way an expert on this subject (despite my minutes of not very intensive googling), so please do your own homework.

I will say in my very limited experience, the people who believe in the benefits of CBD really, really, really believe in CBD. So, if you find yourself chatting about it with someone you don’t know well, tread very carefully as you find yourself offending a zealot accidentally. Kind of like Crossfit training, self-help authors, Gwyneth Paltrow & Goop, anti-vaxxers, TED Talks and the Toyota Prius.

Gregorys was started in 2006 in New York by Greg Zamfotis, a bespectacled gentleman whose visage is the model for the unique nerdy logo plastered all over Gregorys’ shops. They’ve grown to 26 outlets in the New York area, and now are up to four shops in Washington. They’ve gotten their start in DC with a very concentrated rollout in the downtown area close to the Farragut North metro station; the two shops furthest from each other are separated by less than a mile.

My admittedly unoriginal idea was to go to one of the shops, order a macchiato and a second macchiato with CBD, contrast and compare, etc. I was able to find parking closest to the Gregorys at 1900 L Street, NW, so I ended up there.

There was a nice vibe in the shop. It was busy but not overwhelmingly so, the people at the tables were actually talking instead of ducking their heads into their laptops and phone, and the staff were friendly and welcoming. Design elements are dominated by wood and the color black. Espresso is made on a sleek La Marzocco Linea PB 3 group machine with black accents.

And damn these friendly people for having free donut holes for the taking at the register!

mmmmmmmmm, donut holes

helpful suggestion or unyielding demand?

I was only able to get a regular macchiato here because the shop was out of CDB oil. It was served very hot, and there was a layer of foam on top that didn’t integrate into the coffee or the crema. Taste was a bit harsh with hints of over-roast. All these factors were not as bad as the evil empire, just noticeable if not disqualifying. I would think a little bit of steamed milk into the coffee would make it better, and there was still more flavor than at the ‘bucks.

As my plan for a side by side taste testing was foiled by the shop being out of CBD, I walked a block or two to the Gregorys on 1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Thanks for the clustering, Greg.

I was in luck because they had CBD in stock. And hey, look, more donut holes!

Same design elements, slightly different layout to match the space. Staff were again very nice, though some of them were clearly learning. The manager did a great job of guiding her team respectfully. One of the guys working in the shop engaged me in a conversation about sneakers.

So I got my CBD macchiato, and whoa. That’s a lot of foam.

Didn’t smell anything different from the regular macchiato, but the taste was definitely there. A bit hard to describe, kind of light and a touch sweet and almost but not quite medicinal. Either this coffee was not as harsh as the one at the other shop, but the CBD did seem to balance the drink more. Not quite as hot as the other shop.

Not sure whether I liked it or not. The manager asked me what I thought, and she described the taste as grassy. Grass….y. Heh heh, she said…. sorry, but she started it! She told me most customers order it in a latte and they add a little strawberry syrup to help mask it, which is pretty telling.

I didn’t notice any particular effects, so I can’t comment on the efficacy of CBD. I would guess just one drink in isolation won’t do much, and I’m probably too much of a natural cynic for any placebo effect. So whether this stuff is a magic elixir or snake oil or a placebo or someplace in between, I don’t see myself seeking it out but more power to those who feel they benefit from it.

Not sure whether I’ll search them out in the future, I think if I’m near one and want a coffee I’ll definitely drop in but won’t go out of my way. I liked the atmosphere and the people working there, the coffee was okay, the donut holes were a nice touch. I have to admit, the nerd logo is kind of cool.

One factor keeping me from thinking more highly of it? How do I put this……


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