Conor and Arka’s Journey to Solventless Extraction
Test Tube Tropicana was the turning point. After dialing in solventless extraction, Conor and Arka of Slurmmm Melts decided to try using the Test Tube Tropicana strain they were growing for solventless extraction. It did so well that the brand and business took off from there.
Crafting frozen solventless extracts to perfection
The Slurmmm Melts journey has been brewing for a long time, beginning in the streets of Ottawa. They’ve been working together for over 12 years; going back to highschool and learning the ins and outs of the cannabis game, starting from the bottom, to migrating to BC to participate in the legacy market opportunities which existed only in Vancouver at the time. Their passion to be able to produce a top shelf cannabis product has kept them learning, moving, experimenting adapting and innovating, which eventually led them to live rosin, “the pinnacle of cannabis concentrates thus far” in cleanest and purest form.
Having started growing straight out of high school, Arka was in Ottawa studying and continuing to learn the craft of growing cannabis, while Conor moved to Vancouver to attend university. After Conor returned to Ottawa, he also brought back BHO extraction knowledge in its infant stages, and collaborated with Arka in BHO production. After a solvent fire and explosion from open blasting, the two of them determined the technology was not at a point to keep them safe, and shifted attention back to the raw flower and ending their run with solvent extraction.
Fast forward a few years down the road; with growing skills and determination to commit to the cannabis industry (during a time when legalisation was just a dream), Arka jumped into the grey market after moving to Vancouver. Doing management, and procurement for medicinal dispensaries, as well as working directly in medical grows which supplied the dispensaries, put him in a position with connections to open up his own medical cannabis website, which he partnered with Conor on, bringing him back to BC.
At this time, the market was only legal along the dispensary system. Vancouver was giving out licenses for shops to adhere to in order to participate in the cannabis industry. Through the dispensaries, they made a lot of good friends in the industry and were introduced to the BC/Vancouver concentrate scene.
Conor and Arka were both interested in being more into the growing side of things and less hustling, so they slowed down, and shut down the online shop. They continued to focus on growing the best flower and product possible to continue to supply dispensaries. Having studied agriculture, Arka had a focus on organic and living soil practices of growing cannabis; they worked to learn and understand the plant in order to produce high quality organic flower.
In the meantime—they started a farm-to-table food truck. It was called Mandalay Burmese Kitchen, and they sold Burmese (southeast Asian) street food. At the time they didn’t have a farm. They sourced all their vegetables from a local farm where Arka studied agriculture and worked. Their plan was to get a farm to grow their own vegetables to sell in the food truck and also grow weed to sell medicinally within the Vancouver dispensary system. This was how they were finding their own back-door way to make a sustainable living in the cannabis industry.
However, the legal market was on the horizon.
When it was announced that legalization was coming, they dropped everything. They dropped the food truck and the plan, to focus their attention on the cannabis industry entirely. Originally they focused on growing, they were stepping into the new industry, jumping through all the hoops, and fighting the bureaucracy. It was a long process with a lot of barriers but they were committed.
Amongst the community and friends they had made in Vancouver, live rosin and live bubble hash extraction was a topic of conversation. By 2015/2016, bubble hash production was changed with technological advances; both freeze dryer technology and rosin press technology made the production a lot more viable, and less inaccessible. Arka had always stayed up to date with new products and technologies regarding concentrates; bubble hash extraction was not new at the time, as he had previously dabbled in high school with it to produce hash, and now was the time to come back to it. They decided to start turning gardens into fresh frozen to transition to bubble hash as the technology advanced. They built out their first cold room and got to work. At the time, they weren’t sure how it was going to work out, if their flower would yield favorable results in this method of extraction, and things were uncertain. The strain they were growing at the time for the concentrates was Test Tube Tropicana, and it did really well, so they put it on the market, and it made a big name for them. “It was the strain that really helped make us and proved to us that we were on the right track and that we can do this whole hash thing.” It wasn’t a large batch, but it helped everything get in line. It happened at the perfect time. It proved that the consumers liked what they were doing. It gave them the motivation to keep going and reminded them that if they stay passionate, they will get to where they want to be.
Processing for hash is a risk, and you don’t always know if your strain is going to work out. Everything has to be perfect every step of the way through so many different tests to actually get a good strain. It’s possible to grow a perfect flower, but that specific cultivar might not work well for hash. Other times you grow something that yields almost nothing. You can spend so much time giving love to a garden, making it perfect, but you can still lose everything and take a full loss. Conor and Arka have taken a lot of those losses. They’re so passionate about the quality of their products that if anything is not perfect about the flower, they don’t run it. If the product doesn’t come out perfect, they don’t want to put it out.
As growers, plant diseases and pests are amongst concern, although most are recoverable and manageable. There are ways to mitigate things like bugs and pests, however, a couple years ago, they were taken out by HLV (hop latent virus), a pathogen that will affect other plants that it touches and causes them to deteriorate. Slurmmm Melts had to cull all their genetics; a lifetime of work being thrown out and starting over from scratch. All because one plant had a disease they couldn’t escape from. But they just continued on and kept going—kept on hunting for different strains and better flavors.
All the risks and chances they have taken have ultimately resulted in experience and knowledge about how different reactions occur throughout the process. They’ve learned what to do and what not to do, as all of the losses are lessons learned in the end. A lot of people are afraid to hunt for hash strains. For Slurmmm Melts, it’s not about the money, but it’s about the passion of trying to put out new flavors and top products and continuing to learn daily.
They’re either running their own product that they grow into hash or they’re collaborating with a grower to run their batch. Either way, they’re very picky about how it’s grown and what it’s exposed to throughout its life cycle. They are in contact with their growers about each batch to ensure that they will be able to pull the best possible resin from it. That kind of collaboration and care guides those growers in the hashing process. In Conor and Arka’s own garden, they use what is considered a lower yielding process. They’re growing it for its terpenes—the full expression of the plant resulting in better hash.
They’re always hunting for new strains. They’ve found that those who are into consuming hash are always looking for the next new thing and that the consumers want something new and different for the next round. So they keep hunting and experimenting with new strains. Something might yield well, but if it’s a boring strain they won’t be excited to put it out on the market, “It’s all about the terps”.
They work on 10–20 strains in their collective at a time. They have gardens that are dedicated to only testing. Cannabis genetics don’t all do the same thing, so they are always hunting for that characteristic that will produce good hash, which takes a lot of time and energy. They learn along the way which strains they should grow and which ones they shouldn’t.
Slurmmm Melts is not only focused on their in-house production but also on actively seeking out other growers for collaborations. It’s difficult to keep hunting for new strains on your own, so if they see that a friend is running a strain that looks like it would do well for hash, they do everything to convince them to team up to put out something unique and special.
With a passion for cannabis and trying to step up their level of medication to see where they could take it, the idea of extracts really called out to Conor and Arka. So a few years ago, they both moved to the island to really pursue this as a legal endeavor.
These days, they are handling a lot of bureaucratic work. They estimate that a lot of their time is spent filling out paperwork and learning the ins and outs of compliancy and Health Canada and one of the most regulated industries in Canada. The rest of their time is spent doing what they love at their beautiful facility—what they’re passionate about. They procure batches and work with the growers, then wash it, press it, and process it further. Some periods of time are spent watching multiple labs every day—just watching and learning more about the plant and hash. Simply put, they are just trying to put out the best product they can.
They’ve been at this a few years now, and they’ve made a name for themselves. The system is getting better, and they’ve met some people in the industry who have given them a platform—those people are Old Growth Collective (OGC). They’re collaborating and consulting on hash for them and trying to guide their growers into the hash system under this OGC umbrella.
Above all, Conor and Arka are consumers; they’re lifetime smokers who make the highest quality, cleanest, tastiest medicine there is. Since they were teenagers, they have been striving for the best product to consume. “We’re lucky enough to have consumed a lot of good product in our lives, and a lot of bad product, and ultimately it landed us in a position where we are able to showcase what we think is really dank, and what other people in Canada have agreed is really dank,” said Arka. The passion for wanting better and better product to smoke was in both of them. When they get introduced to something better, they strive for that. They want to grow it or produce it, or even just consume it.
The goal was to share the best product they can with people in hopes of converting them to the hash/rosin, as they had been, sharing the gospel of the solventless and its benefits. The community and people wanted them to keep going and do more—all across Canada in fact and that’s enough for them to feel like they feel like they’re going down the right path. People enjoy what Conor and Arka have dedicated their lives to, and within this niche market, they have their name as one of the most well known extractors.
There are a lot of hash brands on the black market now inspired by the Slurmmm Melts blueprint. Slurmmm Melts has inspired the path in terms of branding, marketing, and putting out flavors. They do it for the culture, and will continue to push forward, and adapt to the ever changing industry.